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Alex Cross is a detective whose powers of deduction border on the clairvoyant; he can look at your shirt and tell you what you’re having for dinner tomorrow night.

Alex Cross is novelist James Patterson’s third big screen outing for his celebrated Washington, D.C. crime solver -- Morgan Freeman played Cross in both Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider -- and will probably be best remembered as a routine cops-and-psycho drama that features Tyler Perry’s first job as actor-for-hire.

Matthew Fox (looking like an anorexic member of the Body Worlds touring cast) plays an industrious serial killer who shows up as a “walk-in” at an unauthorized church boxing match. The point of entering the pugilistic display is to attract the attention of his next victim (Stephanie Jacobsen) who is sitting ringside. So taken by his powers is she, that the young vixen can’t help but invite Fox back to her home for some kinky sex. With Jacobsen gagged and tied to the bed, Fox injects her with a wonder serum that leaves her wide awake but paralyzed. Once this bit of foreplay is dispensed with, Fox proceeds to torture her to death with a round of "this little piggy" on the garden shears.

What's with all the improbable over-plotting? If Fox is that proficient a killing machine wouldn’t it have been simpler for him just to shoot her? The killer later leaves a clue in the form of a sketch that only someone well-versed in the art of Mad Magazine fold-ins could divine. This type of intricate narrative may well serve Patterson’s loyal readers, but it tends to set eyeballs-a-rolling among multiplex wags.

Once Fox shifts his focus from offing bad guys to taking out family members of Cross’ team, there’s not much excitement left in this Death Wish sequel. The final shoot out did manage to wring a few tears from my eyes. It takes place in the carcass of the once mighty Michigan Theatre, currently being used as a car park.

Rob Cohen directs (like that means something) and Rachel Nichols, Edwards Burns, Giancarlo Esposito, John McGinley, Jean Reno, and Cicely Tyson (sporting the sparkliest damn wig I ever did see) round out the cast.

Reader rating: One Star

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John71471 Oct. 19, 2012 @ 2:37 p.m.

The question I have is this: how is Tyler Perry as an actor when he's not in drag?


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