In his review of Rob Cohen’s Alex Cross, Roger Ebert wrote:
This is the first film Tyler Perry has appeared in that isn’t his own personal work. He is best known, of course, as Madea, the 6-foot-5 matriarch Perry plays as a cross-dressing signature role. Alex Cross would perhaps have been much improved with Medea in the title role.
It’s an easy joke, but I still wish I’d been the first to make it. Because now, I’m left without much to contribute to the conversation.
Perry’s biggest problem is that he lacks the natural charisma needed to carry an action picture (see: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis). Madea is the one with all the screen presence; take away the wig, the makeup, the dress, and what’s left? A rather bland performer who runs like he has a wooden broom handle clenched firmly between his butt cheeks. Cohen only further illuminates this crippling flaw by pitting his protagonist against Matthew Fox, who devours scenery like he’s eager to regain the forty pounds he shed to play the villainous Picasso killer. Even Jean Reno, who only appears in three brief scenes that do little to advance the plot (and is a long, long way from his brilliant character work in Leon and Ronin), manages to act rings around the supposed star.
To be fair to Perry, though, the script doesn’t give him much to work with. Alex Cross is a generic police procedural, and its title character is the stock hero: tough, educated, devoted to his family, and always two steps ahead of the screenplay (unless the writer needs him to slip up). Cohen shows no interest in deviating from the established formula–a fatal mistake in the era of CSI and other televised cop dramas. The tropes and cliches on display are so familiar that you could watch literally any five-minute chunk of the movie–completely out of context–and still know the entire story.
[Originally written October 20, 2012.]