Exposition. It’s the subtle act of informing an audience, critical because we’re all super busy folk with short attention spans. I know I am, sometimes I forget what I’m doing while I’m in the process of forgetting what I’m doing (Inception noise). So it makes perfect sense that a film, when erring on side of caution, would err toward a place that didn’t withhold information. But do you remember your great-aunt, the one who loaded up on bourbon at family gatherings and then told then same anecdote, over and over, and in the most pedestrian manner possible? The story likely involved buying your grandpa socks or some other such nonsense. Do you recall the liquor on her breath, her strangely strong arms pulling you closer, even as you attempted your escape? That’s Alex Cross, the movie, though we’re also going to have to get into Alex Cross, the poorly executed character, all in the name of critique (french for “Armond”).
The opening scene of Alex Cross has a crackerjack detective unit running down a bad guy. Oh yes, Alex Cross puts all of its cards right on the felt from the get-go, this is to be a movie that features transition scenes as if they were actual scenes. Alex Cross (Tyler Perry), Tommy (Edward Burns), and Monica (Rachel Cross) lead us through a series of shaky cam action, all culminating in the eventual bad guy being collared (as if he were greens). We have no idea who this bad guy is, why he was being chased, or what it meant to the department when they caught him. All of that would have required context, and Alex Cross has something else, something far more diabolical, to attempt. Instead of context, we’ll be getting a healthy diet of expository dialogue and scenes that go nowhere. Delightful!
As they walk away from the crime scene, DR. ALEX CROSS says something profound, and then Tommy and Monica bicker about something or other. Then, 45 seconds into the film, Alex Cross (both character and movie) give up, and the scene ends with a quip from Cross – “You guys are always fighting with each other!” Or something of the like. It might have been “You two, with the fighting over there!” or “It’s like a fight a moment with these guys!” or “Fight city, population: YOU FOOLS” – regardless, the gauntlet has been thrown, and it has landed directly on our heads. Instead of showing the two characters bicker, having the audience make a mental note, and then starting another scene, someone out there figured “Yeah, but shouldn’t we make it obvious these two fight? Because I have no idea how to sell it otherwise. It would probably take another scene or something.” (passes out in pool of own Red Bull). Fair play, anonymous screenwriter, but we were only half a minute into the movie. Baby, baby, you gotta warm up the oven.
The next scene is Alex Cross arriving home. He lives in a mansion in Detroit (I assume it’s a mansion because there are no gunshots outside). His wife arrives home and he does one of those Sherlock Holmes style cold reads on her, to prove to the audience that he’s massively intuitive. “Oh, you’ve been with Sharice, because you smell lightly of lavender, and because your cravat is askew, I know you saw a kite being flown” and other such pronouncements that help us realize that Alex Cross is a super-genius, and we, as an audience, should expect him to be a crime-fighting expert. But he learns something he didn’t expect during this particular examination, and that is the news that he’s about to be a proud poppa. Egads! Will this realization come back to haunt him later? POSSIBLY.
Then Tommy and Monica are having an argument, only this time they are doing it IN BED. That’s all I’ll say about that, because I don’t want to ruin the best four seconds of the film. We’re then (mercifully) introduced to the killa, Matthew Fox, who is named “Picasso” on the IMDB page, though I don’t think he had a name at all in the film. Fox is out for blood (much like in the game, “Star Fox“) but, through a series of criminal acts, he’s come up against Alex Cross and his team of detective all-stars. Y’all, this will be a battle, right, what with both sides having the opposing goals and such.
One quick note on Fox, Perry, and the rest of the Alex Cross gang. I hold them blameless. They can’t help the music (gaudy piano) put underneath them, they can’t help the awful simplicity of the plot, and they certainly can’t help when one character asks another if he likes “nature,” ushers the guy outside, and then ends the scene right there, with nothing else transpiring on any value whatsoever. This is clearly a hatchet job from the top, and director Rob Cohen (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Stealth) must take the brunt of the blame. Cohen is certainly passable when executing cheese, see: The Fast and the Furious, but he’s downright miserable when attempting to execute a serious narrative with a limited tool set. Where xXx is (kinda, sorta) fun, Daylight is an unmitigated disaster. In this scenario, with the need for Alex Cross to be an earnest and competent lead, Alex Cross is completely lost. The film can’t pull it off anymore than I could pull of playing power forward in the NBA. It’s simply too much to ask.
Speaking of, there’s a moment Tommy and Alex share at a crime scene, where Alex schools Tommy, much to his chagrin. Tommy insists all the homicidin’ that took place was the work of a team, but no, Alex breaks it down for him as to why he’s oh so incorrect, this was the work of one man, and that man was Matthew Fox. Have you ever seen a moment like this in cinema? Where a tertiary character is asked to crank up the incredulous to ludicrous speed, all so the hero can show off his considerable expertise? Well, this is that scene, and it’s as painful as anything you’ve witnessed in cinema this year, and I include Taken 2‘s “let’s all throw grenades!” aside in that verdict.