This film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Tyler Perry...

This film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Tyler Perry in the title role during a scene from "Alex Cross." Credit: AP

After examining the fingerless body of a dead prostitute, keen-eyed detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) starts thinking. Within seconds he spits out this profile: "He wants to make somebody hurt. I don't know who. Maybe his mother."

No kidding, Sherlock. The guy who sold Cross his morning doughnut could have whipped up a smarter hypothesis, but then just about any schmo on the street could have made a better movie than "Alex Cross," an uncommonly awful action-thriller that fails on absolutely every level. It feels almost cruel to laugh at such a blindly stumbling, dunderheaded action-thriller, but you won't be able to help it.

"Alex Cross" is a follow-up to "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider," two lurid genre-flicks classed up by Morgan Freeman as the Detroit cop created by novelist James Patterson. This time, Cross is tracking a killer nicknamed Picasso (Matthew Fox, all buggy eyes and manic giggles), who left behind a drawing once but otherwise has no clear motivation or back story. He's one of several stock characters, including Cross' loyal partner, Thomas (Edward Burns); some ill-used women (Rachel Nichols, Carmen Ejogo), and an oily foreign businessman (Jean Reno). Cicely Tyson, who's been in several Perry films, plays Cross' no-nonsense mother.

Perry, best known for his rowdy "Madea" comedies, replaces Freeman's poise and intelligence with cop-show fight moves and spluttering bluster ("I will hunt you down like a rabid dog!"), which is in keeping with this clumsy movie's M.O. Rob Cohen ("The Fast and the Furious") directs so sloppily that the stuntmen look like stuffed dummies, and the script (by Mark Moss and Kerry Williamson) is a stew of undercooked ideas, some lifted from past Cross movies.

"It ain't over," Cross says ominously after the film's anticlimax. You guessed it: There might be a sequel.

PLOT Tyler Perry replaces Morgan Freeman as the forensic psychologist last seen in "Along Came a Spider," this time tracking a shadowy assassin. RATING PG-13 (violence, language)

CAST Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns


PLAYING AT Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE A failure on every level, from Perry's awkward, spluttering performance to the incoherent script. Even the stuntmen look like stuffed dummies.



Cicely Tyson relents on 'Alex Cross'


In "Alex Cross," Cicely Tyson plays Cross' (Tyler Perry) grandmother, Nana Mama, a former teacher and principal, who raised him and acts as the conscience of the detective-turned-FBI profiler.

"Alex Cross" is an unlikely movie for Tyson. In fact, after reading the script, she says, she told director Rob Cohen that the film was not her "cup of soup. This is too violent." But Cohen saw only the elegant Tyson in the role.

"I wanted her because ever since saw her in 'Sounder' and 'Miss Jane Pittman,' she seemed to me to be the epitome of powerful womanhood," he says.

"I wanted a woman who could stand toe to toe with Alex Cross. She is the only thing preventing him from stepping onto the slippery slope of revenge to get this guy. It just seemed like Cicely had it all -- she had the gravitas, the wicked sense of humor and the presence to pull that off."

His persistence -- and her strong bond with Perry -- wore her down. Even so, there's a good chance Tyson won't be seeing "Alex Cross" on the screen.

"I don't usually watch myself," she says. "The gratification comes in doing it -- constructing another being." -- Los Angeles Times

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