It's just not the same without Freeman
Directed by Rob Cohen
Written by Marc Moss and Kerry
Williamson, based on the novel by James Patterson
Rated M. 101 minutes
Showbusiness sometimes creates strange bedfellows. James Patterson has written or co-written 97 novels since 1976. It will probably be 98 by the time I finish this review. His run of hits is unprecedented in American publishing - 19 consecutive No. 1 titles on The New York Times bestseller list. This film is based on Cross, the 12th novel in his series about an African-American psychologist and detective, Dr Alex Cross, who is based in Washington DC.
It's a lazy travesty of the original material that will do nothing for Perry's career or Patterson's legacy. Alex Cross deserves better.
Morgan Freeman played Alex Cross in the first two adaptations of this series, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, but he declined a third. Instead, the role goes to Tyler Perry, a younger actor who is enormously successful within the US and largely unknown beyond its borders. That is because he has developed his huge following largely among the blacks, particularly in the southern states. His most famous comic character, Mabel ''Madea'' Simmons, is a tough old black lady who wreaks havoc on anyone who displeases her. She speaks in a vernacular based on New Orleans, where Perry grew up, largely unhappily.
Off target … Tyler Perry disappoints in the title role.
Perry's extraordinary rise from abused child to cross-dressing star of stage and screen might explain his casting in this movie, but not why it is so bad. The film opened in the US as Hurricane Sandy lashed the east coast last week. No doubt, the storm will be blamed for the film's lacklustre performance, but that is a comfortable fiction. The storm saved many people from wasting their money.
This adaptation betrays both Patterson's original novel and the spirit of the two earlier films. The original plot has been put through a Hollywood meat grinder, as the rights bounced from one production company to another.
The English actor Idris Elba was originally to play Cross, under the thriller director David Twohy. By January of last year, they were both gone and Perry was in, with the action director Rob Cohen at the helm. That was a sign the film would favour action over plot and character, but the film is not satisfying at that level either. Some of the effects are remarkably cheap-looking, unusual in a modern Hollywood action film.
Freeman brought acres of credibility and class to the role. His Alex Cross was thoughtful, patient and painstaking in pursuit of killers. The new Cross is more impulsive, violent and a lot less intellectually convincing. Perry may be capable of a serious dramatic role, but this provides little evidence. He walks through it with a taut face and terse delivery, as if his underwear is too tight. The early scenes at home in a leafy suburb of Detroit establish a sentimental and stiff idea of blissful family life. He loves his gorgeous wife (Carmen Ejogo) and children, and his sassy, tyrannical grandma (Cicely Tyson). They are like a Cosby family with a better house and less humour. God help anyone who threatens them.
Enter the killer. Matthew Fox plays a bald-headed, pasty-faced, rail thin menacer who calls himself ''the Butcher of Sligo''. In the book, he was a mafia hitman with his own wife and family, a more interesting scenario. Here, he is a roving psychopath for hire, with facial tic and a taste for pain. He starts by rubbing out a rich Taiwanese woman (Stephanie Jacobsen) and her bodyguards, torturing her to death after injecting a date-rape drug. Cross and his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) work the scene, with Kane playing straight man. He assumes all the wrong things, allowing Cross to correct him. Elementary, my dear sidekick.
The path leads to the billionaire French developer Gilles Mercier (Jean Reno), who plans to spend millions revitalising Detroit. Reno often appears in routine but well-paid cameos. This one wasn't worth his getting on a plane, but that's pretty much true of everyone in the film. It's a lazy travesty of the original material that will do nothing for Perry's career or Patterson's legacy. Alex Cross deserves better.
A newsletter featuring the name Alex Perry linking to this article was inadvetently published. We apologise for this oversight.