Alex Cross

You can’t blame Tyler Perry for wanting to prove himself a bankable star outside of his own movies, and maybe he has the potential to do it. But he won’t be helped by the dim-witted “Alex Cross,” a shallow and threadbare detective thriller that’s based on James Patterson’s novels (see also “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider”) and is a transparently cynical attempt — and a half-hearted one at that — to launch a new franchise.

In this reboot, Alex Cross (previously played by Morgan Freeman) is a brilliant Detroit psychologist and police detective whose powers of deduction enable him to spot the tiniest, vaguest clue at a crime scene and immediately know when someone is lying to him, yet be shocked when his wife announces she’s pregnant. He and his partner, Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), are on the trail of a vicious killer nicknamed Picasso because he draws pictures at crime scenes, or at least he did one time at one crime scene. Picasso, a cackling lunatic who resembles a wiry meth addict, is played by Matthew Fox, now made entirely of veins. Cross uses his amazing profiling skills to determine that Picasso is an ex-military narcissist, i.e., that he is exactly like all serial killers in all movies. Cross is determined to catch the killer, but then the case gets personal, and now Cross is determined to catch the killer, uh, even more, I guess. All of this is directed by Rob Cohen (“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” “The Fast and the Furious”) with his usual flair for incoherence. You keep waiting for the fresh twist that will prevent this from being a generic, paint-by-numbers episode of “The Mentalist,” but it never comes. At least this confirms my long-held suspicion that Tyler Perry is drawn to bad scripts whether he wrote them or not.

D (1 hr., 41 min.; PG-13, a lot of violence, some grisly images, moderate profanity, some sexuality -- all pretty rough for a PG-13.)