09 February 2013

Alex Cross

This afternoon's viewing was the thriller-that-wanted-to-be-an-action-movie "Alex Cross", based (according to the end credits) on the novel "Cross" by James Patterson.

The character of Alex Cross, featuring in a series of twenty Patterson novels to date, has been seen onscreen before in the films "Kiss The Girls" and its sequel "Along Came A Spider". (Although in book form they are in reverse order.) The detective with a psychology degree who does profiling work as a consultant for the FBI was played then by the great Morgan Freeman. Personally, I think Morgan Freeman was slightly old for the role, but his performance as Cross is miles beyond Tyler Perry's. I'd still like to see a Denzel version.

"Cross" was the twelfth book in the series, with the plot summarised as:
Cross, who has left the FBI to open up a private psychology practice, and John Sampson try to stop The Butcher, a serial rapist/murderer who may be somehow connected to the murder of Alex's wife Maria.
(source: Wikipedia)

For the so-called film adaptation, Alex is still with the police force and is only about to apply to the FBI. The villain does use the nickname "Butcher" in one scene. And Alex's wife is murdered. That's where the  similarity ends. For some reason, John Sampson gets turned from a six-foot-plus African-American detective with the nickname "Man-Mountain" into a skinny white cop, Tom, played by Edward Burns.

This is not Alex Cross.
This is Alex Cross.

There were moments where I started to believe Tyler Perry's take on Alex Cross, mainly in the scenes at home with his family. But when it came to the crime scene work, he was more like Sherlock Holmes... only without on-screen text cues or slow-motion closeups to help us follow his brilliant deductive trains of thought. One of which includes an actual train, but never clues us in on any of the other options considered (and discarded) by Cross. He arrives at a murder scene, and interrupts his partner's theory of multiple killers with "No, this was one guy." We're never shown how he works these things out, which is disappointing.

And then there's John C McGinley. I was hopeful when he first appeared onscreen, as a Chief of Police, but he's wasted here, his role descending into showing up occasionally in a suit or dress uniform and shouting cliches.

Which brings me to the one thing I did enjoy in the film. Matthew Fox's killer. Following in the footsteps of actors like Christian Bale, he underwent a strict diet and exercise regime to lose weight and gain muscle. His gaunt face and cheek bones immediately reminded me of a previous screen Cross villain, kidnapper Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott). He is fiercely cruel, intensely physical and downright creepy - as is suitable for this kind of film.

Stepping into the cage-fighting arena, Matthew Fox is a long way from "Lost".
For comparison: Michael Wincott as Gary Soneji in "Along Came A Spider".

** out of *****

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