Alex Cross Review: The Best Movie of Idris Elba's Career
It’s been awhile since I have felt as much contempt for a film as I do Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross, but it’s because Perry and the filmmakers behind it have a mutual contempt and disrespect for their audience. Alex Cross is not a movie inasmuch as its a mash-up of platitudes that people yell in detective thrillers as performed by a bucket of assholes. It’s an ungodly, incoherent atrociously acted mess of a film written by psychopathically dumb people who couldn’t sell a line to a three-sided square. If you could focus-test brain damage, this movie would score in the 90s.
That’s exactly why it’s the best movie of Idris Elba’s career: Because he didn’t make it. The idiotourage behind Alex Cross initially cast Elba in the lead role, but claimed to have yanked the job from him after Tyler Perry agreed to come aboard. My guess, however, is that the two decisions were unrelated. Idris Elba likely read the script and told the producers to immediately stop everything they were doing and go f*ck themselves. Only a person with as little shame as a man who has built a career out of wearing an old woman’s dress and a stuffed bra would agree to use his box-office clout to support a movie as detrimental to common f*cking sense as Alex Cross, and Tyler Perry has made a turrible career out of giving no f*cks about his audience.
Based on the James Patterson series, Tyler Perry plays a younger version of the Alex Cross character depicted by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. He’s a Detroit detective before having accepted a job as a FBI profiler. Here, he’s saddled with his partner and lifelong best friend, Tommy Kane (Ed Burns), and a third partner, Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), who is sleeping with Kane for no reason that has any bearing on the rest of the film’s plot. The only function it seems to serve is to exchange a few minutes of screen time with Perry for a few minutes with Burns, which is like treating an amputation with acid.
The trio of detectives is in search of a deranged assassin (Matthew Fox), who looks like he lives on a binge diet of meth, steroids, and Red Bull, and acts like a guy staring into the direct-to-DVD abyss of the rest of his career. If you could combine the overacting talents of Vincent D’Onofrio and Billy Zane and the charisma of a flaccid penis you’d have the rough approximation of Fox’s Picasso character, so named because he inexplicably does chalk drawings of his victims. There’s a lot of inexplicable things going on in Alex Cross, but perhaps nothing as inexplicable as Picasso’s motivations: He’s a sociopath, but one of those rare sociopaths who needs to be paid $3 million to trigger his psychosis. There are two villains in Alex Cross — the assassin, and the mystery person who paid him — but there’s very little relationship between the two entities over the course of the film, almost as if the original film about a psycho killer came in 15 minutes short, so they tacked on a clumsy subplot to get them to the 90-minute mark and because Jean Reno need a paycheck to support his gravy addiction.
Picasso is into torture, but not so much into it that it would jeopardize Alex Cross’ PG-13 rating. He uses a drug to paralyze his victims while he tortures them, which is a convenient way of creating a chemist character who needs to be tracked down, which creates an unfortunate side plot that features a scene with Giancarlo Esposito (I audibly gasped at the sight of Gus Fring, not because I was happy to see him, but because I felt so sorry that he’d gotten mixed up into this mess).
Largely, however, Alex Cross is a lethargic game of cat-and-mouse after the cat and mouse have been kicked into traffic and traveled a few miles inside an Mack truck’s wheel wells. However, the relationship between cat and mouse here doesn’t make any f*cking sense. For instance, at one point, Picasso calls up Cross and says, “Here’s your chance to ask me questions and get inside my head,” and Cross asks, “Are you having fun? Was your first kill a family pet?” That exchange enrages Picasso so much that he accuses Cross of using “psychobabble” (warning: there is no actual psychobabble in this film), and then shoots Cross’ wife, because OBVIOUSLY.
That’s the kind of disconnect between words and actions that dominates the entire film, which is to be expected from Rob Cohen, the three-celled organism behind the markedly better The Skulls. At least The Skulls had the charming presence of Joshua Jackson (RIP). The late Joshua Jackson could’ve taken 1,000 feet of celluloid, wiped his ass with it, and ran it through a film projector and it would’ve been more entertaining that Alex Cross, the worst movie of 2012.