Whatever it is about Dr Alex Cross that has propelled his book series to the top of countless bestseller lists, it’s painfully absent in this film-adaptation. Author James Patterson’s creation is clearly intended as a modern Sherlock Holmes, but Tyler Perry’s performance leaves any of the great detective’s charisma, intellect and intrigue on the cutting-room floor. Physically he looks the part – Madea without the makeup – but everything he does, from time spent with his picture-postcard family to shootouts with a psycho, is interminably vapid.
The action is placed early in the Cross canon’s timeline, before he quits being a humble Detroit investigator for the bright lights of Washington DC, and thus before Morgan Freeman’s significantly better impersonation in Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001).
Cross’s opponent this time round is bone-thin murderous lunatic Picasso (Fox, in a parody performance turned up to 11), who has begun picking off the lesser-lights of Detroit’s criminal class in an effort to get to big cheese Leon Mercier (a big-boned Reno). The plot makes no sense, its supposed-twists are telegraphed, and every performance is unconvincing. You care nothing for these characters, which negates any peril when their lives are threatened. You’re left seeking aesthetic pleasure in the action, which is sorely lacking wow-factor but for two impressively OTT explosions.
The one real note of interest is the film’s location, with dilapidated Detroit supplying greater mood than any of the characters. Its curious infusion of beauty amidst decay marks the film out from countless big city rivals, but it’s ultimately a setting the filmmakers fail to exploit anywhere near sufficiently. Suffice to say, if you want a modern Sherlock, go watch the excellent Steven Moffat series bearing that very name.
EXTRAS ★★ An audio commentary by director Cohen, who makes a surprisingly decent fist of justifying his bilge while providing insight into how the thing was shot. It’s more entertaining than the film itself, but that’d hardly be difficult. Next we have Psychologist And The Butcher, a 10-minute featurette on translating the character from the page to the screen. Patterson pops up as one of the interviewees and he evidently believes the filmmakers have done a sterling job with his best-selling creation, bless him. Finally, a few obligatory (rightly) deleted scenes.