Tyler Perry stars in the title role of "Alex Cross." (Summit Entertainment via AP)
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language and drug references.
Once upon a time, James Patterson was a fine, interesting crime novelist. That was years ago. Now he's a perpetual self-hype machine feverishly cashing in on his name by using a platoon of "co-authors" ("ghostwriters," if you prefer) to flood the market with derivative mush to the point that more than 50 "James Patterson" novels have been published just since 2008.
Similarly, Patterson's signature creation, homicide detective and forensic psychologist Alex Cross, was brought vividly to life by Morgan Freeman in the gripping "Kiss the Girls" (1997) and "Along Came a Spider" (2001).
But in Cross' third big-screen appearance in the eponymous "Alex Cross," we get a blander, less interesting version of the character played by Tyler Perry.
Perry's a decent actor, though he's no Morgan Freeman. (Who is?) But he can't breathe much life into a generic script in which Cross and partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) chase a whacko serial killer (Matthew Fox).
The killer initially seems to be targeting mega-rich CEO types involved in a vague plan to rebuild downtown Detroit. But he then veers off script and makes it personal by targeting Cross' wife (Carmen Ejogo) and Tommy's girlfriend (Rachel Nichols).
Cross is supposed to possess near-superhuman powers of observation, but for a guy who "can tell you had scrambled eggs for breakfast at 100 yards," he seems entirely oblivious to the psycho following him around in a shiny new Cadillac STS.
The film becomes a rote chase/revenge tale that's largely uninterested in the human element (highlighted by Tommy's almost total nonreaction when told his girlfriend has been brutally tortured and butchered).
It plays out in predictable fashion, climaxed by a terribly staged and directed hand-to-hand fight and capped by a laughable coda that feels light-years beyond the scope of a mere Detroit cop.
The buff Fox, who seems to be all sinew, gives a twitchy, bug-eyed, live-wire performance. But beyond that, "Alex Cross" feels as formulaic and perfunctory as any recent James Patterson book.