Tyler Perry doesnt need to prove anything.
By LOEY LOCKERBY
Special to The Star
The man made a fortune by packing his 6-foot-5-inch frame into a dress to deliver gospel-tinged wisdom as sassy matriarch Madea. How could he possibly top that?
By taking on a role once played by Morgan Freeman, thats how.
In Alex Cross, a rebooted adaptation of James Pattersons crime novels, Perry takes the character back to his beginnings as a Detroit psychologist and detective. He acquits himself well as a serious actor in something that doesnt have his name in the title.
With his partners Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), Alex chases down bad guys, eventually running afoul of an unnamed assassin (Matthew Fox of Lost), who enjoys torturing his victims.
Dubbed Picasso for the charcoal drawings he leaves with the bodies, the killer is targeting wealthy businesspeople, including the head of an international company (Jean Reno) with plans to revitalize the city.
Although much of the film was shot in Cleveland, director Rob Cohen does capture some of Detroits decaying grandeur, most notably in scenes shot in the old Michigan Theatre, now the worlds most decorative parking garage.
That sequence also highlights Cohens severe limitations. Hes used to helming big, dumb movies like XXX and The Fast and the Furious, but a hand-to-hand fight in a dark, crumbling building is beyond his abilities. Cohen shakes the camera constantly, even in the films quieter moments, but this scene should come with a seizure warning.
Cohens handling of actors is equally shaky, and the presence of writer-director-actor hyphenates like Perry and Burns is the only thing that saves the dramatic material. Alexs relationship with his family is sweet and genuine, and he and Tommy have a nice buddy-movie vibe. One cant help but wonder if the two stars clandestinely took over when Cohen was busy blowing things up.
Fox doesnt fare as well, blinking and twitching manically in a generic psycho role. Picasso is physically and mentally superhuman, with no backstory, so Fox overcompensates with a performance that combines Max Cady from Cape Fear with Draculas giggling henchman Renfield (minus the bug-eating, but just barely).
As an attempt to establish another franchise, Alex Cross is modestly successful, but the series will need directors with more finesse than Cohen. And while Perry will never be another Morgan Freeman, he should continue to make a convincing Alex Cross.