''Alex Cross'' is a departure for Tyler Perry.
He didn't write it, and it's not based on one of his plays. It's based on James Patterson's best-selling novels about a FBI profiler and psychologist.
He didn't direct it. Rob Cohen (''The Fast and the Furious,'' ''Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story'') did.
And, no, he doesn't wear a dress.
But there's a point where viewers may wish they were watching ''Tyler Perry's Madea Solves a Murder'' instead of ''Alex Cross.''
It couldn't be any worse.
WHAT: ''Alex Cross''
STARS: Tyler Perry, Edward Burns, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Jean Reno, Giancarlo Esposito, Carmen Ejogo, John C. McGinley and Cicely Tyson.
STORYLINE: Detroit homicide detective and psychologist chases after a hired killer targeting a French businessman.
DIRECTOR: Rob Cohen
RATING: PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references and nudity.
''Alex Cross'' is a crime thriller where the only mystery to ponder is who thought it was a good idea to spend millions (10 of millions?) of dollars on a terrible script and a miscast star. And considering how many movies show up in DVD stores with bigger names and bigger budgets and no theatrical release at all, why is this opening on 2,400 screens and not getting a quiet burial on Blu-ray?
The movie is loosely based on Patterson's 12th novel in the series (''Cross''), but the movie turns it into a prequel of sorts. The tale is set in Detroit before Cross joined the FBI, but his skills of observation are well-honed. The city of Detroit is played by greater Cleveland, and audiences may recognize Akron's Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, XO Prime Steak in the Warehouse District and the Cleveland Heights neighborhood where the Cross family home is.
Cross, longtime partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and a newer detective (Rachel Nichols) are sent to investigate four murders (a beautiful young executive and her three bodyguards) in a ritzy home. The killer, dubbed Picasso because of the drawings he leaves behind, appears to be working his way up the chain of command to get to a French multi-national industrialist (Jean Reno) with an elaborate and expensive plan to revitalize Detroit.
Cross has to figure out Picasso's plan and motive before he succeeds. But once the script sets up the premise, it essentially abandons it and turns ''Alex Cross'' into a standard-issue revenge thriller.
Physically, Perry looks more like the Cross of the books than Morgan Freeman, who played the character in ''Kiss the Girls'' and ''Along Came a Spider.'' But despite his size, he's wholly unconvincing as an action star, which may explain why most of the action and fight scenes are just a jumpy blur of images. In trying to show he can be a serious actor, Perry just makes Cross seriously dull.
As a result, Cohen apparently told everyone else to play their characters BIG! Burns does the hotheaded Irish thing as Cross' partner. Cicely Tyson amps up her sassy grandma. Matthew Fox (''Lost'') is creepy and twitchy as Picasso, but the killer is more a collection of personality tics than an interesting character.
It's not a spoiler to say the movie ends with Cross leaving Detroit and heading to work for the FBI in Washington, D.C. But ''Alex Cross'' is more deadly than Picasso when it comes to killing off a potential movie franchise.