In previous films, Morgan Freeman brought focus and gravitas to police detective Alex Cross, a character from a series of James Patterson novels. This film, based on the novel "Cross," appears to be set in the present day, but it's actually a belated origin story that strips the familiar Alex Cross character of 35 years.
Tyler Perry is an affable screen presence, but an unfortunate choice to portray Cross. Those familiar with Perry know he has written numerous "dramedies" starring himself as the pistol-packing, gospel-spouting granny, Madea. This is Perry's first role he has not written for himself. As Madea, he instinctively understands the importance of tolerance and faith in tempering human behavior. However, as Cross, a character grounded in logic, Perry struggles and fails to find his footing.
Cross the detective is harried by an assassin calling himself the Butcher of Sligo (Matthew Fox), who is a mixed martial arts fighter and expert marksman. The Butcher's main interest lies in torturing beautiful women, even if doing so means declining the kinky sex offered by a beauty on his hit list. Evil, talented and smart, the Butcher's is a fascinating creature. Although his backstory receives no attention, he is the only player who isn't lost in this meandering screenplay.
The script feels rushed into production, wasting precious screen-time on scenes such as those of domestic bliss or funerals that add nothing of importance.
Cross' game ought to be raised or ruined when the butcher takes an uncommon interest in the detective's life. Instead, Cross' affect remains flat following a series of tragic events - partly due to clumsy, lackluster writing, and partly because Perry's characterization doesn't convey the extraordinary powers necessary to intuit his adversary's motivations (Cross' Holmesian abilities are claimed, but never justified).
Edward Burns, playing Cross' partner and best friend, is underused and wasted in a thankless role, but some color is added by Jean Reno as an enigmatic billionaire planning to reinvent failing Detroit as a thriving technological center.
This subplot, appearing to rely solely on erecting futuristic buildings, receives off-handed treatment that renders it nonsensical. If we build it, they will come?
The few scenes worth attending depict action owned by the butcher and his split-second timing.
Ultimately, even these leave us cold because we don't care about his victims, and our ability to root for Cross is hampered by our inability to believe in him.
Judging by the film's weekend take of less than $12 million, and a fifth-place position behind films going on their second and third weeks of release, Summit ought to rethink this franchise - especially after it made the irreparable mistake of ensuring the Butcher won't return for an encore.