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Alex Cross - Film Review

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by Mimi V (subscribe)
Mimi V a writer, social media manager, foodie, music lover, and mum, currently residing in Sydney with Mr V, two little Vs and doggy V.
Thriller meets action in this lightweight tale
Alex Cross is a police psychologist (Detective Dr Cross, if you please) who is having a bad day. We know this because in one of the first scenes of this action-come-thriller he declares himself ecstatically happy, and we've all be watching movies long enough to know that when a lead character does that, it will be downhill from there. And fast. Poor Alex, it seems he will be the last to know.

Starting with the trademark "I'm quitting the job/getting out of the neigbourhood/going straight" cliche is just one of the set piece sign posts that this movie uses to give the game away at various points, which is is a shame, as the element of surprise is what makes a good thriller.

Alex Cross, Tyler Perry, Movie, Film, Action Movie, James Patterson, Kiss the girls, Along Came A Spider
Tyler Perry as the eponymous lead character in Alex Cross

The central character of this movie is the same character quite ably played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, and is based on the books of James Patterson. Though not based specifically any one book, the story features elements of several of them. Given that Tyler Perry, who plays Cross, is so much younger than Morgan Freeman (this film depicts Cross as a man in his prime, with a wife and young family), you can almost think of it as a prequel to the other two - certainly as far as the life story of the character is concerned, anyway.

However, apart from the name of the central character, the three movies don't bear much resemblance to each other. Putting aside the notable absence of Morgan Freeman, the key difference is that this movie sits far more in the action camp than the other two, which is strange as Tyler Perry is best known as a dramatic actor.

Salt, Meats, Cheese, Salt Meats Cheese, Deli, Alexandria, ham, produce, mozarella, The Grounds
Alex Cross - the thinking man's action hero

As the plot unfolds and we follow Alex through a bad day that turns into months, I find myself focused on aspects of the film other than the story being told. Why does the character of Cross' mother (played by critically acclaimed theatre veteran Cicely Tyson) have such a terrible wig? Why would a high profile actor such as Jean Reno make such a fleeting and not very inspiring appearance? And why are of the aforementioned red flags and plot signposts in the film never resolved?

I think Perry would have been better cast in this movie if it was more of a thriller than an action flick. He's buff and fit, that's for sure, but he seems to labour the point at times - maybe a hangover from his theatre days? Perhaps director Rob Cohen (Fast and the Furious, xXx, The Mummy 3, Stealth) should have stepped in and told him to lighten the tone and ease up on the booming deep voice. Or maybe it's the slightly hammy script by Kerry Williamson and Marc Moss that lets Perry down (it certainly doesn't help).

Having said that, the scenes between Cross and his happy-go-lucky partner and childhood best friend, played by Ed Burns, do actually ring true, even though the men are as different as day and night. There seems to be a genuine affection between them, and the believability of that relationship lends some credibility to the story line when the two men put their lives (and those of their families) on the line for each other, and ultimately risk everything together.

Alex Cross, Tyler Perry, Movie, Film, Action Movie, James Patterson, Kiss the girls, Along Came A Spider
Ed Burns plays Alex Cross' best friend and sidekick

Another very believable element is the contempt that Cross has for the villain of the piece, and vice versa. The psychopathic killer, played by Lost's Matthew Fox, is Cross' arch nemesis, and venom emanates from every pore of each character whenever they interact. Apparently the actors approached their roles in true method actor style, meaning that they kept their distance from each other on set (they actually only "met" each other off set very briefly on one occasion), and maintained the atmosphere of animosity whenever they were near each other. Their dedication to their craft certainly paid off - their hatred for one another is palpable.

Alex Cross, Tyler Perry, Movie, Film, Action Movie, James Patterson, Kiss the girls, Along Came A Spider
Matthew Fox is scarily believable and scarcely recognisable as the saddistic psychopath in Alex Cross

Speaking of Matthew Fox, the former Lost star is almost unrecognisable in this role as a cold-blooded killer who gets off on his own pain and the pain of others. This couldn't be further from Dr Jack, but somehow Fox manages to own the role. If nothing else, he is so physically different from his usual self that it is quite easy to see him as a completely different person. He shed a lot of weight for the role, as well as training like a fiend, and the result is a fiendishly wiry villain who comes off as a cross between Gollum and Dracula (his teeth actually look sharper, or is that just his cheek bones?) It's actually scary how well he pulls this role off, and whilst the creepiness of the character sometimes makes him hard to look at, there's something compelling about it that makes it hard to look away. Fox definitely gives Perry a run for his money (and wins) as far as acting chops are concerned.

Alex Cross, Tyler Perry, Movie, Film, Action Movie, James Patterson, Kiss the girls, Along Came A Spider
'My Precious.' Matthew Fox's pysho is a cross between Dracula and Gollum - a far cry from his character in Lost

As well the fleeting glance of Jean Reno, we also see, equally briefly, John C. McGinely of Scrubs fame as the irritable police chief who is Perry and Burns' boss. I am somewhat confused by his performance as his character seems very similar to the snarky doctor he plays on Scrubs, only in a police uniform, and not intentionally funny (I think).

I have to confess that thrillers are much more my thing than action movies, so I know that I would have enjoyed this more had it been more similar to the previous films and focused more on the plot than the swashbuckling action scenes. Of course, Freeman's boots are very hard to fill, but I really wasn't expecting Perry to do that, and he didn't. That being said, there are certainly worse ways to spend one and a half hours - particularly if you like your action sprinkled with a touch (perhaps even a touch too much) of drama.

This iteration of the Cross films certainly takes them in a different direction, thereby breathing new life into the franchise, and (if the last few minutes of this movie are anything to go by), leaving plenty of space for a follow up film or three. You heard it here first. Watch this space.
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Why? You like your thrillers heavy on action
When: Released on 8th November
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