In Alex Cross, the usually multi-hyphenated Tyler Perry just acts, trying his hand at crime thrillers but not quite hitting the mark.

Perry is known for his Midas touch in the entertainment world, having grossed massive amounts of cash with just about every film and TV show he makes. Alex Cross is one of the only times he takes a job strictly as an actor (he also made a cameo in the 2009 Star Trek) and, well, let’s just say you might like him better when he does everything.

Based on novelist James Patterson’s lead character, Perry gives a glimpse of Dr. Cross in the early years, before he turned into a superstar FBI profiler, hunting down serial killers. You know, before he became Morgan Freeman in films like Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls. Cross is working as a Detroit detective with partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and has a perfect family life with his savvy wife (Carmen Ejogo), two adorable kids and sassy Nana Mama (Cicely Tyson). Things starts to turn nasty, however, when Cross crosses path with a psychotic assassin named Picasso (Matthew Fox) who doesn’t take kindly to having his methodical plans to kill some rich French dude (Jean Reno) foiled by idiot cops. So, Picasso goes after Cross and his family and when tragedy strikes, Alex sees red. The rest of the film, shall we say, is revenge history.

Perry does an adequate job playing the action hero but somehow you get the feeling he’d rather let loose and whup ass like his alter ego Madea. Maybe I’m just projecting and wished Perry wanted to run into a building as Alex Cross and come out as Madea, yelling about how she gonna take down the psychopath and how she ain’t gonna be in the po-po business anymore. But alas, that does not happen. Suffice to say I don’t think Perry is in his element in Alex Cross.

Fox, however, tries everything he can to be in the element. The actor sheds any of his previous nice guy, hi-I’m-Jack-Shepherd-from-Lost personas – along with shedding some serious weight – to portray the cold-blooded killer. Unfortunately, Fox doesn’t really succeed either in what he so obviously wants to convey but rather comes off way over the top. I miss Jack. The rest of the cast are mere window dressing, except maybe Burns, who has a good rapport with Perry even though he is basically playing the same cop character he’s done in films like Man on a Ledge.

Alex Cross is probably hampered the most by its lackluster direction and hackneyed script. Director Rob Cohen does virtually nothing to keep the action exciting or the crime thrilling, while the myriad of writers (there were three at least credited) churned out some of truly laughable dialogue. The actors can only do so much. That’s why I have a feeling if Tyler Perry enjoyed playing Alex Cross this time and the film does some decent business, he’ll be helming the next one full board. THEN maybe we’ll see a little Madea.