Directed by: Rob Cohen
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns, Rachel Nichols, Cicely Tyson, John C. McGinley
Runtime: 102 Minutes
With Alex Cross, Tyler Perry tries to break free from the stereotype of a drag queen with attitude. His director, Rob Cohen (director of The Fast and the Furious and xXx) tries to show he can handle things on a much smaller scale than he’s used to. Matthew Fox tries to shed his clean-cut role from “Lost” for something much more sinister and fun. How do all these elements fair? Just well enough.
Alex Cross doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in any significant way, but the film is serviceable for a thriller. Cohen’s style never quite made a name for itself outside of a couple of pictures, but the film’s biggest strength is that the lowered budget (estimated to be 40 million) is never felt. The movie feels restrained, but never small. Perhaps Cohen’s experience on much bigger films is the reason he’s able to weather the small budget. His flashy style is still persistent, so fans of his previous works will be pleased.
A fun, ferocious, yet creepy Matthew Fox helps give the film some life. He’s a good foil for Perry’s Cross, and Fox chews up all the screen he wants to. Fox is having the time of his life, and is truly a joy to behold. It’s unclear whether he’ll want to take on more villain roles in the future, but it’d be welcomed if he did. Like some great villains, he does provide some dark comic relief, particularly a scene at a train station. When he’s not chewing scenery (and in some cases stealing the show,) Fox embodies the brutality needed to play this character. His standout sequence is his opening mixed martial arts fight, wherein he viciously breaks a man’s arm.
The real breakout here, ironically, is Tyler Perry. Used to seeing him in drag as a gangster grandmother, or as a generic successful African-American, Perry blows away all expectations of him in an action hero role. It might be hard to swallow for some, but Perry pulls off being a believable badass. Is he perfect? No, but he doesn’t need to be. Where it’d be easy to root for Cross to fail based on Perry’s name alone*, the man behind Madea makes you care. Perry gets it, and even makes a case to be in the next Expendables film. Simply; if Tyler Perry starts making action movies, it’d be welcome and met with excitement.
The rest of Alex Cross makes the grade. Ed Burns delivers in the buddy role, and it’s nice to hear from him again. He and Perry have a great dynamic, as do he and Rachel Nichols, who holds her own as an up-and-coming detective. It’s also nice to see Cicely Tyson be an actual grandmother to Tyler Perry, and not one of the ladies. The screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson is what you expect out of a film like this. It never rises above what it is, but it’s never as stupid as you’d think it to be.
The same could be said of the film as a whole. Alex Cross fills you up, and sure, later the stomach will want something more, but while you experience the movie, there’s no complaints. Cross is definitely a Tyler Perry movie, but one that showcases his serious side over his comedic showings. Matthew Fox provides a fine villain, and Cohen does good work, but Perry should be getting calls to star in Black Dynamite 2 or a remake of Black Belt Jones. Or maybe Perry will finally grant a wish and give his character Dr. Willie Leroy Jones a movie. Either would be a refreshing break from the next Madea adventure.
* – To be honest, I’m actually a fan of Perry’s. I will say, I think his plays work better than his movies, though.