Alex Cross is getting its greatest attention for featuring Tyler Perry’s first major role outside of the movies he writes and directs himself, with people wondering if he can pull off the title role of a driven police detective and psychologist. But it’s another performance in the movie that really deserves the scrutiny: Matthew Fox plays Cross’ nemesis, a nameless psychopath who’s stalking both corporate bigwigs and the people closest to Cross. Perry’s performance as Cross is bland and perfunctory, with some unconvincing emoting. But Fox’s work is a whole other level of bad, a mix of over-the-top evil and twitchy nerves that makes his character far more laughable than menacing.
With his elaborate, meticulously orchestrated plans and superhuman villainy, Fox’s character might as well be the Joker, with Cross as sort of a poor man’s Batman. The two first cross paths when the killer takes out a rich socialite and her three bodyguards, and Cross and his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) are assigned to the case. They track the killer’s next target, a high-level executive of a multi-national corporation, but things quickly become personal, as the killer brings tragedy to both Cross and Kane.
The relentless ugliness of the story isn’t thrilling or involving, and its vague undercurrent of misogyny makes it even more off-putting. As Cross, Perry barely registers, and he has none of the charisma that Morgan Freeman brought to the character in Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, previous adaptations of James Patterson’s series of novels. The plot is less convincing as the movie goes along, culminating in an astonishingly terrible final scene that wraps things up with a hurried info-dump and a jarringly sadistic turn for Cross himself.
Director Rob Cohen is best known for big, dumb action movies (The Fast and the Furious, XXX), and his visual style is distractingly chaotic. He can’t keep the camera still even during simple dialogue scenes, as if he’s quickly bored when the characters stop to talk to each other. Not that you could blame him—the stilted dialogue is just as bad as everything else about this disastrous, unpleasant movie.