Breathing new life into author James Patterson’s celebrated hero, Tyler Perry honors the titular character and sets a welcome precedent for future installments of the Alex Cross franchise.
Cinema is no stranger to Patterson’s work, and we’ve met Alex Cross before as he tracked down the bad boys in “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider”. There we were treated to thoughtful portrayals by the venerable Morgan Freeman, and you know what?
With all due respect and affection to Mr. Freeman and those who appreciate his performance, I like Perry’s better. Much better, in fact.
Freeman’s hallmark stance ~ that astute, present detachment (warm or menacing as the case may be) that alerts the wise and warns the foolish not to underestimate him ~ serves well in most circumstances, but in this case Perry’s the more believable.
Where Freeman is cerebral (that’s not a dig ~ I’m that way myself), Perry conveys Cross’ emotion with an energy that reaches out and surrounds those in his sights (warm or menacing as the case may be). Granted, Freeman’s Cross has the benefit and perhaps mellowness of age, but it remained difficult to imagine a passion like Perry’s in his past (that’s a lotta p’s). Where Freeman argues eloquently against an action, Perry steps into one’s space and says, “Don’t make a fuss.”
Quite divine, really. At the risk of inciting the fury of Denzel fans (and I’m one), I’d go so far as to suggest that certain decisions heretofore assumed deserve honest discussion at the very least…
As for “Alex Cross” itself, admittedly less divine, but forgivable. Sure, some expositive clichés trigger involuntary eye rolls: the “So now you’re gonna be the tough guy, gonna get even” confrontation (really?), and the “Get into his head, think like he does!” exhortation (worthy coaching to rookie Clarice in ’91, but Alex is way past that as are we by now). Then there’s our incredulous, “What are you doing?? Shoot him!” moment. And true, Matthew Fox crests the wave as his villain ~ admittedly Travis-Bickle-rampant with a raging case of Sadistic Personality Disorder ~ tips toward the psychotic, undermining the premise that he could be as ferociously competent as he is. And yeah, the tag line and product endorsements land with the finesse of a sledge hammer. >sigh<
But the locations and set design create engaging environs, director Rob Cohen offers a wealth of interesting perspectives, the story is well-rounded, and young Yara Shahidi joins Mae Whitman and Tina Majorino as being a Youngster to Watch (Whitman hit for “Hope Floats”, Majorino the one-two punch for “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Corrina, Corrina”).
Also in its favor, one also can hardly go wrong with “Alex Cross” for a general movie night ~ something’ll touch everyone, much will appeal to many, the intensity is startling but still PG-13, and the flaws, while painful, merely drop it from “great” to “time well spent.” Perry fans, Patterson fans, and casting fans interested in watching Perry claim territory: come on ahead.
Here’s hoping that the crew of the rumored next installment (“Double Cross”) gain better control, and if they can match Perry’s fittedness for the role, then we could be in for some remarkable fun (Noyce? Demme? Zaillian? McTiernan? Fingers ~ well, you know… )
Story: Origin story of James Patterson’s popular hero, and the intense events that brought him to becoming an FBI profiler.
Genre: Action, Suspense/Thriller
Starring: Tyler Perry, Edward Burns, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Carmen Ejogo, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno, John C. McGinley, Giancarlo Esposito, Yara Shahidi
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Running time: 101 minutes
Official site: http://www.alexcrossmovie.com/