CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
The first thing we noticed about this movie was that there were no press reviews in the Friday newspapers: it wasn't screened for the critics so if they wanted to review the movie they had to queue up at the multiplex to see it like normal people do. Why? It's usually seen as a sign that the movie stinks if the distributors decide not to let the inevitable collective thumbs down torpedo the movie's box-office chances any further: it's less a question of letting the public see it first and more a question of damage limitation, hoping to get some cash in the bag before word spreads. But all manner of unspeakable crud gets shown to the critics, crud far worse than this efficient if anonymous and thoroughly unremarkable B-movie potboiler: it doesn't make sense. (I don't really care that much: I'm not on the press circuit anyway.) But the real mystery is not why they didn't show it to the press, it's why they're showing it to us. Like the Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone, it belongs more on DVD than in cinemas: there's really no need to trek out to catch it on its almost certainly brief theatrical exposure.
Alex Cross is a Detroit homicide detective with two kids, a third on the way, and a typically nasty murder case to solve: a rich woman tortured to death. But if not for her money, then why? Happily, this is one of those murderers who likes to leave abstruse clues around the crime scene and engage in a battle of wills (if not wits) with the police: the trail leads to a billion-dollar urban renewal programme and the final target looks to be dodgy French financier Jean Reno (wearing a Panama hat that occasionally makes him look like Robert Robinson)....
Possibly the media blackout was intended to stop anyone mentioning that the star, one Tyler Perry, is actually better known (at least in America - the bulk of his work has not been released in the UK) for dressing up as an old woman named Madea on no less than sixteen occasions (if you believe the IMDb). That's not necessarily a bad thing, but this movie is rebooting a character who's been played twice by the great Morgan Freeman so there's precedent to live up to. In comparative terms that's like getting Martin Lawrence to play Shaft: even if he turns out to be brilliant, it's hard to get away from Big Momma's House. Frankly I'm not convinced that Perry is up to the demands of a leading man in an action thriller. Apparently Idris Elba was attached at one point and he would certainly have been better: he has presence and charisma and Perry really doesn't. Both of Freeman's outings in the role are far better: Along Came A Spider in particular is twaddle but every time I find it lurking on one of ITV's digital channels I usually have to watch it to the end.
This one is directed by Rob Cohen: perfectly professionally, but if you didn't know this going in there'd be nothing in the movie to tell you until his credit came up at the end. It's got a decent enough supporting cast (Cicely Tyson and John C McGinley turn up) and is mostly watchable enough in a Friday night throwaway thriller kind of way, although the climactic confrontation between Cross and the killer is shot in fast-edit wobblicam that will probably induce motion sickness if you're in the front three rows. But sadly it's never better than okay, never more than watchable. A sequel is supposedly in the works.