Tyler Perry dons the leather jacket of the super-smart detective/ psychologist/ FBI consultant made famous by Morgan Freeman in Kiss The Girls. He's investigating the murder of a rich girl and her bodyguards, but when he starts to get too close, everyone he knows comes under threat. Original Fast and Furious director Rob Cohen helms while Ed Burns and Jean Reno provide able back-up and Lost star Matthew Fox is pumped-up beyond belief as the steroidal villain.
Back in the late 90s, the Alex Cross movies - Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider - inexplicably became the benchmark for numerous sub-par thrillers to measure themselves against.
The character, from the novels of James Patterson, was depicted by an earring and leather jacket-sporting Morgan Freeman, who generally played his own wisdom-heavy persona as he hunted psychopaths for the FBI. Villains who, more often than not, had a tendency to kidnap vulnerable women.
Ten years on, the character has been given a makeover in an effort to relaunch the franchise - with at least a dozen books to delve into, there's apparently gold in them there hills. Or it might just be Freeman's earring.
Tyler Perry (an actor/filmmaker whose insipid rom-coms have yet to break the UK market) takes over the smugness duties, playing the character at an earlier time in his life, back when he was a detective in the Detroit Police Department.
His buddy and partner, Tommy Kane (Burns) is constantly astonished by his colleague's brainpower, so when the pair are called to a quadruple homicide ("we got four roses!"), nobody expects the killer to get away with it. Least of all the audience. Not because we're all in awe of Cross's incredible brain, but because this is cliched filmmaking of the laziest kind. And the plot beats couldn't be more obvious.
The villain, in this case, is 'Picasso' who, it seems, is on a mission. He's enjoying killing people, but he's killing for a reason. A reason that Cross is yet to fathom. But when Cross nearly corners Picasso, he upsets the madman. And things get personal.
With Perry lacking any kind of personality, and the rest of the cast clearly peturbed that they have almost nothing to work with, Alex Cross plays out like a photocopy of a photocopy. A movie based on a copy of a movie that wasn't very good in the first place.
More astonishing than anything is the complete disregard for characterisation. The script, hackneyed and lazy, contains dialogue that wouldn't make it into the worst episodes of Home And Away. "You're putting your pants on kinda angry," says detective Ashe, as Ed Burns gets dressed in a surprisingly normal fashion.
Meanwhile, Fox plays the psycho part as earnestly as he can, and when an actor takes himself as seriously as Fox, that's ridiculously earnest. His mad-dog eyes and twitchy facial tics are typical of a man trying to hit every single beat from the book of 100 Cliches For How To Play A Nutjob.
Even the ever-reliable John C McGinley carries a look of disdain, no doubt aimed at director Rob Cohen who, shorn of CGI effects and Vin Diesel, appears to have lost interest and asked a second unit director to do his work for him, presumably while he stayed at home to watch Morgan Freeman movies.
Lazily shot, often poorly lit and nearly always poorly acted, Alex Cross will have you wishing you'd just watched Along Came A Spider instead. And that really is a damning indictment of a franchise nobody asked to see.