Rebooting novelist James Patterson's famous Alex Cross character for the big screen, Tyler Perry aims at new cinematic territory and scores a bullseye as the Detroit detective embroiled in a hunt for a mega-evil killer that turns personal. Perry is like we have never seen him before in an emotional, powerhouse performance that doesn't let up, and the simply-named Alex Cross should be a solid box office achiever that draws in both Perry's loyal fan base and aficionados of the police thriller genre. Add in an unnerving turn from Lost star Matthew Fox as Cross' main nemesis and the recipe for success is there. Madea this ain't.
The character of Alex Cross hasn't been on the screen since 2001 when Morgan Freeman last essayed the role in Along Came A Spider, after first playing him in 1997's Kiss The Girls. Director Rob Cohen and screenwriters Mark Moss and Kerry Williamson have shaped Patterson's early novel Cross into an origin story of the detective/psychologist when he was a mere Detroit-based police dick teamed with his lifelong friend and partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and smart young rookie Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) on the trail of a serial killer named Picasso (Fox) who has many pending kills on his hitlist. Picasso's ultimate target is wealthy industrialist Giles Mercier (an over-the-top Jean Reno), but before the murderer gets his mitts on Mercier, he plays cat and mouse with Cross and the game quickly turns personal. The film takes its time to develop the human side of Cross (which includes stern mother Cicely Tyson and loving wife Carmen Ejogo), as well as the friendship between him Kane, and builds a strong emotional center that allows us to understand and root for this guy even when he embarks on a violent, animal-like quest to get his prey. Additionally, Cross must also deal with the secret romance between his partners Kane and Ashe, which goes against all department rules and threatens to cause major tension between the trio.
At its core, Alex Cross is a vehicle for Perry to stretch his talents and show us his cerebral and athletic side, which he's so far kept out of his cinematic oeuvre. He takes a much bolder tack with the role than even Freeman attempted, and finds the essence of the character that has proven so popular in Patterson's lucrative beach reads. Cohen knows his way around this kind of material and turns the familiar story into a gripping action thriller that keeps you on edge throughout. Fox's unexpected casting as the whiplash slender and evil Picasso excels as a balls-out chilling portrayal of a villain with no moral compass and seemingly no blood running through his veins. It may be a one-dimensional style portrayal, but what a dimension. Burns is likable and empathetic as Cross' right hand partner and Nichols is wildly appealing in her few scenes. A solid supporting cast including the great Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) and Tyson as Perry's wise but concerned mother is well chosen. But this is Perry's show all the way and he proves that as a hired actor he can still deliver something audiences aren't expecting from Hollywood's most prolific multi-hyphenate.
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Cast: Tyler Perry, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Matthew Fox, Jean Reno, John C. McGinley, Cicely Tyson, Giancarlo Esposito, Carmen Ejogo
Director: Rob Cohen
Screenwriters: Mark Moss, Kerry Williamson
Producers: Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Steve Bowen, Randall Emmett, Leopoldo Gout
Rating: PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references and nudity
Running time: 102 min.
Release date: October 19, 2012
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