RELEASE DATE: November 8
Alex Cross is the creation of successful crime and adventure novelist James Patterson. Considering Patterson has accumulated millions of fans for his African American detective, it’s fair to say this film can only be a disappointment to those who’ve appreciated his adventures in print.
Alex Cross opens with our ace detective and criminal psychologist pursuing a burly bad guy through an abandoned warehouse. With the aid of his partners he soon runs the perp to ground, but not before foiling his escape with a bit of bare-knuckle boxing. As the bad guy is led away a woman on a stretcher is wheeled into Cross’s path by paramedics. She’s whispering something – Cross bends close – “Thank you … thank you.” Then it’s back to the station for some hard talk from their boss. Minutes later we’re in a maximum security prison and Cross is talking to a teenage girl called Pop Pop who’s apparently facing decades for murder. Of course our crime fighter knows she’s covering for someone else and begs her to let him help her too:
Pop Pop: “You can’t save everyone Doctor Cross.”
Cross: “I’m not trying to save everyone. Just you.”
Really? Honestly, who writes this stuff? Alex Cross is one of those ham-fisted productions that hits the audience with every one of the considerable number of crime cliché at Hollywood’s disposal. Yes, Cross has a cheesy white partner who spends half his time yelling at the big man to “Think! What would you do if you were the killer?” and the other half reminiscing about their high school days. Yes, Cross discovers he’s on the trail of a super assassin – ex-military, of course – who decides that it’s worth taking time to shoot the good doctor’s wife rather than the target he’s being paid for. Oh, and yes that hired gun gets a kick out of inflicting pain on himself as well as others, and leaving clues at the scene of the crime so Cross can track him down. Note to would-be super assassins: this is not a good business model.
The sad thing is it didn’t have to be this way. Two of Patterson’s Alex Cross novels have already been made into excellent films, namely Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, both starring Morgan Freeman as a dark-skinned Sherlock Holmes. It’s hard to imagine that he would have settled for the sort of homespun lines Tyler Perry has to put up with. Comforting his daughter after the death of her mother (there’s no such thing as a spoiler in a film this predictable), Cross assures her:
“Your mum loved you and she loved me and when a person dies that love just doesn’t go away. It stays with you and we have to hold on to that.”
Meaningless drivel, the saddest part being that audience members may not recognize it as the most damaging cliché of all. Death is a tragedy precisely because it puts an end to love, and there is nothing left to hold on to if that person has no hope in eternity. That’s why Jesus’ resurrection comforts Christians, because it provides a way through the grave to a place where love never goes away. Cross does make it as far as his local church but it’s not to find support. Instead it appears he’s there to be angry, perhaps at God for not stepping in. Clearly his super insight doesn’t extend to the cross on the wall behind him.
All up, Alex Cross is a pedestrian, less-than-thrilling thriller that I actually thought was a spoof for the first thirty minutes. It earns the ignominy of being only the second film I’ve previewed where a room full of critics laughed at all the wrong places. But then the other one was Twilight so, who knows, there may even be an audience for this. To be on the safe side, though, I’d recommend going with someone who’s prepared to buy your ticket.