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Film Review: No need to cross paths with ‘Alex Cross’

Thanks to a strict adherence to a procedure we’ve seen too many times in police-oriented stories, “Alex Cross” fails to stand on its own two feet. Even with James Patterson’s name stamped on the film, my gut kept telling me I was running into a travesty — a travesty no one should have agreed to create. Why director Rob Cohen would perpetuate the use of clichés without striving to incorporate a substantial amount of creativity baffles me.

There’s not much to be said about the story; if anything, it resembles an extended episode of “CSI” or “NCIS.” The basic premise goes something like this: a Detroit police psychologist/detective named Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) finds himself facing off against a sadistic serial killer (Matthew Fox). When the killer guns down Cross’s wife, he vows to hunt his target down and settle the score, all the while pushing his moral boundaries to their limits.

Tyler Perry stars in “Alex Cross” based on the James Patterson novels. Photo by Sidney Baldwin

Does any of this sound like something you heard on last week’s broadcast of your favorite police procedural? Because that is what “Alex Cross” makes itself out to be.

Cohen plays it safe with the narrative, never bothering to include material that might have elevated this average time-filler to a more commendable status. Such a tactic may eliminate the risk, but taking risks through imagination is what makes creating films an interesting endeavor. Unfortunately, neither Cohen nor Perry pays attention to these technicalities, opting to take what is publicly known about police procedurals and paste the elements into a theatrical format.

Even the action sequences are mediocre, for lack of a better term.

While I do agree that the office building shootout and final confrontation in the parking garage are well executed, I must confess they don’t contain a distinctive edge of their own.

Perry doesn’t have the ability to waltz right into action hero cop territory. Brawn, weapons and resolve will get you nowhere unless you have a special spark from within to keep them alight, which he obviously lacks.

Edward Burns tags along as the protagonist’s partner, a character role that he already did in “Man on a Ledge” earlier this year. Matthew Fox’s version of an assassin is little more than a one-dimensional antagonist, all about extremes and no realism. His performance, along with his tattooed arms and deep-set, emotionless eyes, give way to an over-the-top caricature of a sociopath.

Rachel Nichols functions as the token female cop partner, existing only to drive the plot forward until her usefulness runs its course. And if you think Jean Reno has something worthwhile to offer here, prepare to leave the theater with a frown on your face.

You can go ahead and cross paths with “Alex Cross” if you want, because without an ounce of creativity on this police thriller’s part, you need not fear any retaliation.

In fact, don’t even bother to purchase a ticket; I think catching up on your favorite police investigation TV show might be a better alternative for now.