Not quite as flat-out awful as the critics would have you believe, this prequel to the earlier pics starring Morgan Freeman [Along Came A Spider (2001) and Kiss The Girls (1997)] is best considered a TV movie-quality diversion. Tyler Perry is game enough in the title role, but too many viewers will be thinking Madea. And, the weak script certainly doesn’t help.
The story pits forensic psychologist/homicide detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and his team against an apparent brutal serial killer dubbed “Picasso” (Matthew Fox). However, the action bogs down every time the scene shifts to a domestic setting, in which Cross is shown with his mother (Cicely Tyson), wife (Carmen Ejogo), and daughter (Yara Shahidi).
The main domestic issue—at first, anyway—is that Detroit-based Alex has been offered an FBI gig in DC. Soon, though, a bigger domestic issue will be that his wife gets whacked by Picasso, perhaps to bring out his REALLY hard edge, or something.
Alex eventually figures out that the killer is gradually working his way up a corporate food-chain, leading to fat cat (literally) Giles Mercier (Jean Reno). Alex and partner Thomas Kane (Edward Burns, phoning it in) must foil the dastardly scheme, and punish those responsible.
***SPOILERS AND OTHER COMMENTS***
The movie takes place in Detroit, but a goodly number of scenes were filmed in Cleveland. It seems that the Michigan incentives dried up. Those addicted to direct-to-video movies are well aware that many crummy features took advantage of the Michigan subsidies, with little benefit accruing to the already hard-hit industrial state.
Picasso is revealed to be a highly recommended hit man, so his behavior as a deranged and vengeful serial killer is unexpected, to say the least.
The fight scenes, which rely way too much on quick cuts and close-ups, make you long for the good old days of practical fighting action à la Bruce Lee.
The epilogue, while emotionally satisfying, hurries over the necessary details, and feels tacked on.