James Patterson's Alex Cross series has become a literary phenomenon. In The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting and Filming Alex Cross, a special feature on the Blu-ray combo pack of the latest film version of the literary hero, it's said that at least 60 million Americans have read an Alex Cross novel.
So it was only natural for a movie studio to want someone a little younger than Morgan Freeman, who previously starred in two Alex Cross adventures, for a new big-screen adaptation.
Patterson (serving as a producer here) and director Rob Cohen settled on an unusual name that probably only makes sense to people who have intently read the Cross novels. They chose Tyler Perry, famous for playing the big screen's Madea, and he's closer to the source material than Freeman ever was.
In fact, despite being a loose adaptation of the novel Cross, Alex Cross is the best Cross film yet because it sticks closer to the spirit of the character and the successful books. What Perry sometimes lacks in acting chops, he makes up for in substantial likability and charisma. There is clear dedication and love on his part for this story and this character, and the same can be said for everyone else involved.
Director Cohen opted for a smaller budget ($23 million) for the film in favor of more creative control, and it appears to have paid off. Alex Cross, out tomorrow on Blu-ray and DVD, is not your run of the mill action film. It paints a whole picture involving Cross's family and works in some well established relationships along with bringing far better emotional arcs for its characters than most films of the genre.
Cohen was probably the biggest concern going into the film. This is the same man who directed Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, but he manages to work his camera well and plot his story just right. The pacing is well done here along with the gritty nature of the direction. As the film gets more and more hectic and complicated, so does Cohen's direction, and it's a trick that works for the story.
Supposedly Patterson worked closely with the screenwriters on this film and it mainly shows. Despite a few out of place and blatantly horrible lines, the script creates an exciting villain and an interesting hero that's easy to root for. It does so by painting the corners of the picture that most films like this ignore. We get glimpses of Cross's home-life (which helps a plot twist in the film seem even more uncomfortable) and insights into some heavy relationships in the film including one between Cross and his partner Thomas Kane (Edward Burns). The two actors bring great chemistry.
The most original aspect to Alex Cross, however, is the performance by Matthew Fox. He sacrificed himself physically and mentally and clearly gave himself over to the role completely, and it pays off. His Picasso is a villain that resonates beyond the screen and is sure to creep audiences out.
I've avoided telling the plot here because giving away too much would be easy, and the less you know going into the film the better. All you really need to know is that Alex Cross is a detective hunting a deranged serial killer whose motives are mysterious.
The Blu-ray combo packed includes the previously mentioned special feature which pays tribute to the original novels and Patterson and an insightful commentary by Cohen. Readers should be warned, however, that Cohen's commentary comes with a strange moment of low-brow Obama loving and an even stranger sucker punch to Republicans. At least he kept it out of the movie.
Many called Alex Cross one of the worst films of last year, so why did I like it so much? Look, the hate for the film is understandable. Some of the potential is squandered, and it is not a film that is going to change your life. However, Alex Cross plays much better on the small screen and films like this are always a little slice of movie heaven. The criminal's cool, the hero's cool, the story is interesting. It demands attention and pays off almost as satisfyingly as one Patterson's novels.
Ignore the hate and give Alex Cross a chance.