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8.25 out of 10

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Alex Cross

Crazy Like A Fox

★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | Rental

Rated: PG-13  Violence, nudity, disturbing images, language, drug references and sexual content
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 41 minutes

Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Marc Moss, Kerry Williamson, based on the novel 'Cross' by James Patterson
Cast: Tyler Perry, Giancarlo Esposito, Matthew Fox, Jean Reno, Edward Burns, John C. McGinley, Cicely Tyson, Carman Ejogo, Rachel Nichols

SYNOPSIS: A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer assassin who specializes in torture and pain.

REVIEW: xXx and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor director Rob Cohen returns with the most popular James Patterson protagonist Alex Cross in a prequel/reboot Alex Cross based on the Patterson novel 'Cross'. Along Came a Spider scribe Marc Moss return to pen this new Alex Cross entry with freshman writer Kerry Williamson, offering a glimpse into the life of the detective / psychologist / criminal profiler before the cop ever stepped foot outside Detroit.
Detective Dr. Alex Cross (Tyler Perry, Madea's Witness Protection) makes a living profiling and chasing down criminals on the streets of Detroit. He leads a specialized unit comprised of Tommy Kane (Edward Burns, Man on a Ledge) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols, Conan the Barbarian). When he's not at work. Alex Cross lives a fulfilled home life with his wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo, Away We Go), two children Janelle (Yara Shahidi, Salt) and Damon (Sayeed Shahidi, The Last Fall), and mother nicknamed 'Nana Mama' (Cicely Tyson, The Help). When Cross and his team encounter a tortured bound killed woman surrounded by several bullet-ridden security team members, they discover that the deaths were by the hand of a single assassin they had dubbed Picasso (Matthew Fox, Speed Racer) who finds pleasure in the art of torture and pain. Following the trail of the killer, Alex and his team make the connection that Picasso is ultimately after a wealthy developer named Leon Mercier (Jean Reno, Armored). Alex must push his morals to the limit in order to go toe-to-toe mentally and physically against the maniacal Picasso in his attempt to bring the serial killer to justice.

Alex Cross is is the reboot/prequel to the Morgan Freeman Alex Cross films Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Although Freeman seemed too old for the Cross role, he was and is a superior actor. The wildly successful entrepreneur/producer/director/writer/actor Tyler Perry seems equally ill-suited for the role of the good doctor, but he is genuine and earnest, cutting an imposing hulking figure above most around him. Perry is the younger and newer model, with only a future of pain and vile villains to forge him into a hardened investigator, and with a loving supporting family to keep him grounded.

Not shot in a typical major metropolis like Chicago, New York, or Washington, D.C, Patterson's young hero resides and works in and around the city of Detroit. The city itself takes on a life of its own, even if much of it is in a a state of decay. As the serial killer Picasso cuts a swath of blood and flesh throughout the Motor City, Alex Cross gives a not-so-merry chase in the slowly beating heart of the downtown. From the elevated tram People Mover, to the insides of the elegant atrium of the Ford Headquarters, to the old Michigan Theater that spends its time as a converted parking garage, Detroit provides a unique deconstructed landscape that Picasso uses in his cat-and-mouse chase with the determined Dr. Cross. It seems that the city and Picasso have something in common.

Joining Perry's Cross is a stable of solid actors. Edward Burns, from Saving Private Ryan, growls his way through the role of Cross' partner Tommy Kane. John C. McGinley flexes his muscles as the man in charge of the department, even though Perry's Cross still towers him. Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Revolution) cameos as a local 'businessman'. Cicely Tyson as Nana Mama brings an classic weathered sensibility that even a man of Perry's stature knows better than to mess with. But the break-out star of this suspense story is Matthew Fox. His portrayal of the emaciated serial killer assassin Picasso is riddled with ticks and voices, his sinewy frame a coiled spring of violence and thinly veiled rage and his cold intelligence a force that the famous Alex Cross may not be capable of containing.

Any scene with Matthew Fox is a wonder to watch, Picasso's movements precise and his mission focused, even though he may go off the rails at a moment's notice. One of the best sequences involves the People Mover and an assassination attempt. The pace of the film starts off strong and chugs along at a decent pace. The camerawork at the end during the climatic standoff is a little too jittery with its use of the loose handheld style, maybe used to cover up Perry's lack of fighting skills in relationship to Matthew Fox's superior moves. An impromptu underground cage fight proves that point.

Alex Cross goes back to the beginning of the doctor detective's career, with a glimpse of the pain and turmoil that would shape his future. Picasso is villainous and a worthy opponent. It is still uncertain if more of James Patterson's stories will come to light with Tyler Perry in the lead, but his Alex Cross does stay focused and determined.

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