Film review: Alex Cross

FLEXING: Matthew Fox - of Lost fame - is almost unrecognisable after too many hours in the gym.
FLEXING: Matthew Fox - of Lost fame - is almost unrecognisable after too many hours in the gym.

Alex Cross (M)(101 min)

Directed by Rob Cohen.

Starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox.

Director Rob Cohen made his name and his money directing The Fast and The Furious, xXx, and the like. Films that could happily be described as good dumb fun. Alex Cross, Cohen's latest, misses out on the ''good'' and the ''fun'', and just goes straight for ''dumb''.

Tyler Perry picks up where Morgan Freeman left off, and takes on the role of the titular detective. Freeman played the same part in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Both of those films were very average detective-chases-killer yarns, but lent an air of wit and intelligence the script really did not earn, simply for being graced by Freeman's presence.

Freeman, wisely, wasn't getting within a mile of Alex Cross. Not even the man who's played both God and Nelson Mandela could have saved this turkey Cross is a detective with near-supernatural powers of deduction.

Written well, I can watch this sort of stuff all day. But written badly, or lazily, then detective stories just become irritating and unintentionally funny. Walking into a room with two bodies on the floor, and a third unseen in a bedroom upstairs, this Cross immediately announces to his bemused colleague ''there was one assailant'', and then proceeds to talk us through a barkingly unlikely choreography that might just be one possible explanation for the carnage laid out before him. ''But how can you be certain?'' asks the colleague, not unreasonably. ''This type, they always work alone'' replies Cross, thus completing as neat and as stupid a circular argument as you're ever likely to hear. Honestly, your average CSI episode looks like a gritty slice of realism and rigorous procedure next to this pontificating dingbat and his mysterious ways.

Not that a daft script ever disqualified a film from being enjoyable. I've seen plenty of preposterous  loads of old wallop over the years, that I remember very fondly. But Alex Cross is not one of those films. Firstly, there's a leaden dullness about this film that hobbles it from the beginning. Great swathes of sweet bugger all fog up the screen, as characters stand around in offices discussing what might happen in the next scene.

And that scene, when it arrives, will likely as not contain a couple of moments of sadistic and gratuitous violence. Meanwhile, the shooting style and camera work flails about somewhere on the border between incompetent and absolutely atrocious.

The office-bound shots are flat, badly composed, and lit like the TV soap opera. But once the action kicks in, the camera leaps about like a badger on a hot plate, refusing to ever show us any detail of what we can only surmise is an incompetently staged stunt or fight scene.

Alex Cross is a film that gets everything wrong. It is appallingly written, unpleasant to watch, and directed with no discernible wit, vision, or enthusiasm. In a couple of months time, they'll be announcing the nominations for The Golden Raspberry Awards (the anti-Oscars, handed out every year to the worst films released in North America.)

I fully expect Alex Cross to be among them.

The Dominion Post