Since the publication of his first book in 1976, New York-born writer James Patterson has become a literary sensation.
He boasts Guinness World Records as the most successful author of adult fiction in terms of book sales and earnings and the first author to sell more than one million e-books.
Key to that success has been his long-running series featuring Detective Alex Cross, whose first two investigations – ‘Along Came A Spider’ and ‘Kiss The Girls’ - made uneasy transitions to the big screen in 1997 and 2011 with Morgan Freeman in the role.
Considering the cinematic qualities of Patterson’s writing, both films were critical and commercial disappointments.
Crucially, the big-screen adaptations reduced a psychologically complex and brilliant character to a bland, clichéd cop.
Unperturbed, director Rob Cohen attempts to jumpstart the franchise with this convoluted game of cat and mouse based on the 12th book, Cross.
Freeman has been replaced by the decidedly less charismatic but somewhat sprightlier Tyler Perry, best known for comedies starring his deranged alter ego Mabel “Madea” Simmons.
Perry is solid and brings emotional depth to the role but the picture around him suffers the same failings as its predecessors, failing to capture the adrenaline-fuelled thrills of the source text.
Cohen’s film opens promisingly with Detective Alex Cross (Perry), his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and colleague Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) chasing a suspect through an abandoned warehouse.
Having apprehended their man, the team celebrates.
Alex returns home to his pregnant wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo), grandmother Nana Mama (Cicely Tyson) and children Damon (Sayeed Shahidi) and Janelle (Yara Shahidi).
Meanwhile, Tommy and Monica continue a secret affair, which is against department rules.
Soon after, Cross and Kane are called to a grisly murder scene.
Businesswoman Fan Yau (Stephanie Jacobsen) has been tortured and slain, and her bodyguards shot dead.
Cross deduces that one man is responsible for the carnage – sadistic assassin Picasso (Matthew Fox) – whose ultimate target appears to be billionaire CEO Leon Mercier (Jean Reno).
As the Detroit police close in on their wily prey, Picasso retaliates by targeting the cops’ families and friends and Cross threatens to break the law in the name of justice.
“Look at yourself: self-appointed judge, jury and executioner!” warns Nana Mama.
‘Alex Cross’ lumbers when it should sprint, and the running time feels considerably longer than 101 minutes.
Aside from Perry and Fox, whose banishes his nice-guy image as the merciless tic-riddled killer, supporting performances are perfunctory.
Flashes of brilliance from the titular hero, which are credible on the page, are risible on screen and manifest without any build-up.
A pivotal showdown between Cross and Picasso is reduced to an incomprehensible blur by overly enthusiastic editing, hammering a final nail in the franchise’s coffin.
Star Rating: 2/5