[img]http://www.coverdude.com/covers/alex-cross-2012-r0-front-cover-99235.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Lions Gate
Disc/Transfer Information: Region 1; Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Director: Rob Cohen
Starring Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Edward Burns, Jean Reno, John C. McGinley
I know I’m a bit late to the Alex Cross party, but I finally got around to catching this latest installment taken from novels by the author that brought us Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls after sifting through piles of other titles I was scheduled to review. I wasn’t a fan of those two aforementioned thriller films and which starred Morgan Freeman in the role of the title character Tyler Perry plays here; for whatever reason, Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls weren’t very memorable to me. Thus, what we have here is Rob “Fast and the Furious” Cohen creating a film version of what is supposed to be a sort of prequel story to those tales – this all begins to fall into the category that Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon do, applying characterization angles as used in the Tom Clancy novel-sourced films like Hunt for Red October, Sum of All Fears and Clear and Present Danger…what do I mean by all of this? Well, the “Hannibal Lecter” story so expertly woven from Silence of the Lambs forward begins to dabble in the “which one was the prequel…the sequel…or the backstory?” while the Tom Clancy novel-based films take a character – Dr. Ryan – and has him played by several different actors throughout the film variants, i.e. Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford. That’s what seems to be happening with Cohen’s Alex Cross – Morgan Freeman played this title character in Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, yet here he’s substituted for one Tyler Perry who appears to be better suited for his Madea parodies or Why Did I Get Married yarns. Further, we get a story that I believe was supposed to be a prequel or origin tale of some sort surrounding this character, his job and his life – and so this is like a fusion of those elements I mentioned above, with some lovely-to-look-at young ladies and Edward Burns on board as well.
Something was just missing from this film that I can’t put a finger on; it was almost as if you were watching a made-for-Lifetime network feature of some kind…it lacked kinetic magnetism and felt like Perry was completely wrong for this role. If this was indeed a prequel of some kind, casting someone to appear like a younger Morgan Freeman made sense – but I don’t know if Perry was the right choice. Further, while frightening in his own way and menacing in a Bane-like fashion, Matthew Fox’s wide-eyed, off-the-wall head-twitching killer character was a bit offputting and confusing; is he supposed to be a serial killer? A hit man for hire? Both? Coming off such roles as a dirty secret service agent in Vantage Point, this was a turn of performance for Fox – but I’m not so sure it worked. In fact, I think the drop-dead-gorgeous Caddy CTS coupe he drives throughout Alex Cross was more intriguing than the character itself. The story takes place in metropolitan Detroit, where Perry’s Alex Cross character works as some kind of hybrid homicide detective/forensic psychologist called onto murder scenes for his abilities to figure out crime loopholes and draw out clues. His partner is a quasi-womanizing type played by Edward Burns (The Holiday, Saving Private Ryan) who is called in to assist Cross on a rather violent multiple-homicide in a swanky mansion one evening. In the midst of a “romantic interlude” let’s just say with one of his flings-of-the-week who he thinks he may be in love with, Burns’ character gets a cell phone call from Cross who appears to be shaken by what he has just seen. Before this even happens, we get a glimpse at what went down – apparently, Matthew Fox’s bone-chilling, coarse-hearted hit man character infiltrated a UFC-style kickboxing bout held at – I think – some abandoned church to get to the beautiful purple dress-wearing Asian-esque temptress that works for a big wig, and who is watching the fights from outside the cage with her equally-hot friends. When Fox demands to fight the guy who has been beating everyone quite brutally by offering a good deal of buy-in money for this “makeshift tournament,” we know it’s gonna be a good match – and indeed, he climbs into the cage ring, being booed by everyone around him and having the homeboy-esque ring announcer pretty much laughing in his face with regard to his chances against the bigger, seemingly stronger champion opponent. Once Fox’s character does away with the guy that had every other fighter running scared, his eyes meet those of the gorgeous Asian chick and we know where this is headed…because every beautiful woman is so absolutely smitten and attracted to such violence, right guys?
Taking him home, the seductive Asian girl proves she’s gonna be a little harder to get as once they arrive in the mansion she stays in, Fox’s character is patted down by a squad of bodyguard goons before being released to join her in her bedroom. I gotta say – in my four years of college and subsequent institutions after that for further education and training, I never found it that easy to simply be invited back to a woman’s doorstep, let alone her bedroom with only one purpose…but, then again, I was never a bald-headed, freaky-eyed hit man that killed for money. I don’t know; must be the trendy thing nowadays. At any rate, of course a passionate lovemaking sequence is suggested where the gorgeous Asian temptress seduces Fox’s character – but when he uses her lacy thigh-highs to tie her wrists to the headboard, things get a bit thicker. He takes out some kind of injection device and puts a drug in her, allowing her to feel all the pain he’s about to administer via torture but which stops her from screaming out or reacting (this scenario was explored in William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III, based on his novel Legion, in which the so-called “Gemini Killer” was utilizing succinylcholine to render victims conscious while he cut them up). He then tells her she has “nine opportunities” to tell him the password to her laptop before cutting off one of her fingers. We don’t know what really happens from there, but we get some clues when Burns’ character and Dr. Cross arrive at the crime scene where they find all this girls’ security killed and all her fingers in a glass dish. As the detectives search the scene for clues, they figure out they can use the dead chick’s thumb print to open a secret stash inside one of her bedroom walls.
At this point, Cross and his partner report to their boss, played by the great character actor John C. McGinley, and figure out that this killer’s next hit is going to be on some wealthy French guy in Detroit based on clues they found at the dead Asian chick’s bedroom; rushing to the office building where one of this French guy’s head honchos is to avoid another assassination attempt, Cross, his partner and other cops are met with severe resistance by this obnoxious rich, powerful fellow who insists the building they’re in is sealed like a Swiss vault and no one can harm them. Of course, Fox’s character has already infiltrated the building, on his way to whack this guy out – but Cross and his people end up getting into some gunfights with the madman, actually injuring him when Cross gets off a shot to his arm. Once Fox’s lunatic character escapes and figures out which cops are on to him, things begin to get personal.
The maniac ends up targeting Cross’ pregnant wife, who he shoots when the two are out to dinner at a restaurant; while waiting for their table, Cross gets a call on his cell from Fox’s over-the-top killer character who lets him know the game has been taken to a completely new level…and that he is making it personal now. As Cross’ wife is shown to their table, facing the street outside, he attempts to save her from the bullet about to come into her from Fox’s character’s scope gun being fired right across the street – alas, it’s too late, and his wife is shot and killed. From this point on, Perry attempts to play the Cross character with a vengeful, enraged quality but he doesn’t really pull it off; we feel for him and that he just lost is pregnant wife, and must now take care of their other kids on his own, but something just doesn’t click with Perry and this role…in all fairness, I don’t think Morgan Freeman could have pulled this off either. Perry’s facial gestures and attempts at lashing out in anger because of what this guy did to his life just aren’t believable for some reason and come off feeling forced; it seems as though he really is more suited for the aforementioned Madea and Why Did I Get Married roles.
Cross and Burns’ partner character begin to sniff out leads trying to find this lunatic, of whom they have theorized is after some big kahuna French dude that is heavily involved in corporate scandals and the like, a la Primal Fear and Broken City. All the while, Fox’s character torments Cross with phone call after phone call telling him how he was the cause of his own wife’s death and how he is going to continue taking pleasure in angering him over all of this; it would make any of us red with rage and seeking vengeance and as these scenes transpire, we silently wish this guy gets what is coming to him. And so Cross and his partner kick over some rocks, going to a local crime kingpin and demanding who he knows that could cook up the kinds of chemicals Fox’s character is shooting into his victims. After some cohersion, the gangster gives up the name and address to a home-based chemist making the stuff for Fox’s character and after raiding his hideout, they finally are on the tail of the killer himself. The story then suggests that Cross and his partner theorize he’s going to make his assassination attempt when this French big wig arrives in public for some ceremony; attempting to remain one step ahead of him, Cross and his partner avoid being killed by an incoming rocket the lunatic launches from a passing train into the building where the French guy’s Escalade convoy has arrived. Of course, director Cohen sets up the final confrontation sequence to pit Perry’s Cross against Fox’s killer hit man in a fight to the death – but what didn’t make sense to me is the way Cross tracks him down to an old abandoned theater in Detroit (remember where they were “practicing” their rap battles in that parking lot in 8 Mile?) where the two of them, after playing some cat and mouse through the catacombs, eventually engage in a hand-to-hand fight where Cross appears to beat the living hoo-ha out of this guy who just earlier in the film beat a guy nearly to death – or TO death – with his bare hands in that kickboxing fight. How did Cross get to be so much stronger than Fox’s character…a cold-hearted lunatic with some pretty impressive martial arts skills? I just didn’t get this. To that end, Fox’s character meets HIS end at the hands of Alex Cross when he’s thrown from the hole in a ceiling they both fall through during their final bloody confrontation.
Cohen could have wrapped up Alex Cross right there – but the story continues and gets confusing and downright dumb when Cross and Burns’ character track the French big wig down to a place he’s retreated to in a tropical locale, figuring out he was the one who put Fox’s character up to everything he was doing and everyone he was killing. Somehow, someway this had something to do with the “business deals” the French guy got into and how he needed a way out; the whole aspect was lost on me. Thus, Cross blames the French guy for ultimately killing his wife because of Fox’s character and sets him up by sending local police on the island he’s on to recover dope they “discover” near his couch. I don’t know; to me, to call this a hokey and somewhat unsatisfying ending is an understatement.
[img]http://www.gossipcop.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Screen-Shot-2012-06-26-at-9.35.38-AM-400x363.png[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Lions Gate’s standard DVD transfer for Alex Cross came off with solid characteristics all around. The 2.39:1 image was pretty much rock-solid from beginning to end, rendering clean visuals and a near-high definition look in certain places. No visible compression noise or mosquito artifacts and a lack of softness were welcome surprises; meanwhile, black levels were rich and inky though sometimes a bit twitchy most likely due to the upconversion taking place. Outdoor, brightly-lit sequences depicted trees, foliage, grass and flowers with vivid and near-high def qualities, if also exhibiting that “somewhat rough around the edges” look surrounding certain images on screen that lets you know this is a standard-definition release.
However, skin tones were pretty spot-on while facial close-ups offered plenty of detail for the DVD format. Nice solid effort here from Lions Gate for a relatively current release.
[img]http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/images/reviews/197/full/1359593294_1.png[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
Lions Gate releases some of its DVD titles with the “Dolby Digital EX” codec intact – such as W. – and they have given Alex Cross such a designation. Here, the audio landscape takes advantage of the “phantom spread” offered by the EX Surround algorithm, even with just two surround speakers as I’m running, creating that elusive complete soundfield effect that kind of “fills in the hole” when running two surrounds. Cues such as helicopters flying into the rear stage were accompanied by a solid imaging pattern, making it seem as though the chopper did in fact fly straight over your head (in the sweet spot, of course) rather than through two surrounds to either side of you; likewise, the entire track was aggressive and engaging with huge, deep wallops of LFE at times that rattled my walls and everything on them.
Dialogue was solid, intelligible and centered while aggressive usage of every channel during action setpieces and shootout sequences made for sometimes jarring moments; this was definitely an enjoyable Dolby Digital EX mix.
My wife and I came out of this thinking it made for a decent rental, but can’t see it as warranting repeat playback. The acting is pretty…I don’t know…unmemorable and Perry tries too hard in the lead to handle a role he really isn’t suited for. I think he should stick with his Madea and Why Did I Get Married shtick; further, Matthew Fox, while at times brilliantly frightening as the bad guy here, seemed somewhat offputting and also not in his league – at times, he takes the character too far while at other times the dialogue coming from him seems strange and amateurish particularly in the way he delivers some of his threats to Perry’s Cross character.
The normally good Edward Burns seemed like little more than window dressing in this one, following Perry’s every lead in each scene and not really standing out in any way. Still, of course I know everyone has their opinion, and I’d love to hear yours regarding Alex Cross! Let’s discuss.
I’ll be putting up my review of the Dwayne Johnson thriller, Faster, also on DVD by tomorrow…as always, thank you for reading, friends!