Tyler Perry has made a career out of playing characters that he wrote and directed. Alex Cross not only allows the prolific talent to stretch as a thespian by tackling a role that he did not conceive, it also gives Perry the opportunity to break into a whole new genre of film -- the action thriller.
Perry plays the title character in the latest page-to-screen effort by blockbuster author James Patterson. It is a role that Morgan Freeman made famous in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. But, this is more of the “real” Cross that Patterson imagined. Cross is large in height and personality, brilliantly smart and one with a young family. Perry fits the role to a “T” and in Alex Cross, it is that family that will send the Cross character to the edge of what he is legally and morally allowed to do in the vein of seeking justice.
Director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx) certainly knows how to wield his camera in an action scene. With Alex Cross, he has to add another aspect to the action equation: It has to be cerebral. The Cross character is a PhD. and as such Perry can channel his character's smarts while chasing down Picasso (Matthew Fox). The action sequences crackle with electricity because of that fact and we hope that Cohen and Perry get a chance to do their dance again.
Speaking of Fox, the actor chews the scenery with panache and power. His portrayal of the villain as a man driven by the joy of inflicting pain while matching Cross’ smarts with quotes from Confucius is a study in acting complexity. Picasso inflicts his pain with such equal carelessness and joy -- it is the definition of terror. You could say that he’s met his match with Cross, but the opposite could be equally as true.
Ed Burns and Rachel Nichols are Cross’ subordinates. And both are fine in their roles, but they seem like periphery characters that aren’t utilized as much as they could be. That could be that they are added into the story and not “real” characters from Patterson’s books. The duo are in a romantic relationship that Cross sees as a hindrance to their being able to do their jobs on his team. Yet, that never is fully realized onscreen to the audience and that element honestly falls flat.
One of the biggest joys of Alex Cross is witnessing Cicely Tyson as Cross’ mother. She is the classiest of acts and only adds to that reputation with her role as a maternal influence and moral compass for Perry’s character.
By the closing credits, given what Patterson envisioned for his brilliant detective versus what filmmakers gave us with the Freeman films, we hope to see more of Perry in the role. Alex Cross is a decent, albeit slightly uneven start to what could be one heck of a franchise.