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Alex Cross Easier to Watch Than Expected

  • Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2012 10 Oct
  • COMMENTS
<i>Alex Cross</i> Easier to Watch Than Expected

DVD Release Date: February 5, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: October 19, 2012
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity
Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Run Time: 101 mins.
Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Carmen Ejogo, Rachel Nichols, Edward Burns, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno

Meet Alex Cross (Tyler Perry, Meet the Browns): a family man with a beautiful, loving wife, two kids, and a house in the Detroit suburbs. A psychologist who works as a police detective, Cross has the observation and deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes—and he’s going to need them. There's a killer leaving a swath of bodies across the city; before it’s all over a member of Cross’s own family will join their number. That proves to be a bad move on the murderer’s part. Pushed to his emotional, moral, and physical limits, Cross declares “I will meet his soul at the gates of hell before I will let him take a person that I love from me.” War has been declared. There will be casualties.

If I had to describe Alex Cross in one word, it would be “emotional.” There’s a roller coaster of feelings, from suppressed joy to palpable fear to excruciating pain and overwhelming grief. The story is about what you’d expect, but there are enough explosions and eye candy for both male and female viewers to keep it interesting. Pop culture references scattered throughout the dialogue are almost as cute as Cross’s childhood friend and current partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns, Man on a Ledge).

The film is loosely based on Cross, one of a series of novels by mega-bestselling author James Patterson. Alex Cross is a prequel to Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001), where the detective was played by Morgan Freeman. Freeman is a hard act to follow, but despite several reviews I’ve seen to the contrary, I found Tyler Perry’s version compelling enough. Maybe those who only know Perry from his comedic roles can’t see beyond his usual characters. He may not have Freeman’s gravitas, but Perry shows a reasonable range of emotions at the appropriate times. He’s a little cuddlier than the usual police detective hero, but manages to acquit himself passably when physical action is required.

Matthew Fox’s (TV's LOST) sick and twisted Picasso was rather less convincing. Twitchy and detached, his character was certainly malevolent enough but there was a comic book evil super-villain quality about him that strained reality. Considering his penchant for meting out punishment, that’s probably a good thing for those of us in the real world. Certainly anyone who declares “inflicting pain is a crucial part of my calling” is better left in fiction. Still, the hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow” has never felt so menacing as when a choir sings the lyric, “And I know he watches me...” and we see Picasso skulking nearby.

Director Rob Cohen (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) indulges in a lot of shaky camera effects. While they may be a bit overdone, they did help keep the brutal images somewhat at bay while simultaneously making the violence more real. I greatly appreciated his restraint in the more gruesome sections. A story about a killer who enjoys hurting people could have been seriously repulsive, but the camera never lingers on gore for gore’s sake. The shimmering screen employed when the pain is overwhelming feels for all the world like that moment just before losing consciousness—a nice effect in the circumstances.

The faded glory of Detroit makes for a moody background (the film was actually shot in Cleveland as well as Detroit). A decrepit theater-turned-parking garage, a fight club set in an abandoned church, and other creepy locales contrast nicely with high-tech corporate offices and the trappings of the uber-rich.

If you happen to step out for popcorn and miss any of the action, no worries. There’s a rap number over the end credits that reprises the whole story in a rhythmic, albeit profane, way. But don’t leave before the end of the actual movie—the final scene with Cicely Tyson (Because of Winn-Dixie), who plays Cross’s grandmother Nana Mama, will take the taste of vengeance out of your mouth.

Overall, Alex Cross is an interesting film; not nearly as gory as I feared it might be from the preview. For a story revolving around a guy who likes to torture people to death, it was remarkably pleasant to watch.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Multiple characters shown drinking alcohol at home and in a restaurant/bar setting. Comment “It’s bad luck to toast with water.” Victims injected with a “date rape” drug leaving them paralyzed but conscious; we see the injections take place.
  • Language/Profanity: Pretty much just one instance of each of the following: “up yours”, G-D, SOB, bi***, bast***, a**, he**, and the name of Jesus. If you stay through the credits, the s-word and other profanities are in the rap song played at the end.
  • Sex/Nudity: Innuendos about sex (“that other thing I like” and “pull your chip out”); kissing (married and unmarried couple); couple undress each other; man ties woman to bed (with her permission) for sex; slow undressing of woman; women shown in revealing underwear/swimwear; man shown with bare chest; unmarried couple shown in the act of sex under covers.
  • Violence: Significant amount of violence as it is a major part of the plot. Shootings, explosions, torture; woman’s finger is cut off (we later see a bowl of severed fingers); dead bodies; physical fighting to extremes; dangling off edge of building; multiple murders; man cauterizes wound in his own shoulder; pain is palpable in multiple scenes; man on fire; and other similar scenes.
  • Spiritual Themes: Revenge is a motivator but there’s a good conversation where one character warns another of the consequences, asking “how will you face your children after that?” Could be a good discussion starter. An unmarried couple has a sexual relationship in defiance of their employer’s rules and lies about it. One sequence could make an excellent object lesson on the dangers of bullying when a mouthy trio gets their comeuppance in a decisive but bloody way.

Publication date: October 19, 2012