When it was announced that Tyler Perry would play the lead role, there was much talk about whether or not he could “pull it off.” Well, he did. As Perry told Charlie Rose, they were intentional about matching the actor with the physical description of Cross in Patterson’s novels. Perry is able to portray Cross’ complexities of angry, determined detective, and loving, nurturing father. The fatherhood of Alex Cross is what was missing in the Morgan Freeman versions of Cross. Perry is a deep person (despite what we may see through Madea) and has grown so much in his personal life he is able to fulfill the complexities that make up Alex Cross.
In the film, Alex Cross (Perry) is a Detroit homicide detective who has a second job as a psychologist. Cross and his partner/best friend Tommy Kane (Ed Burns) is called in by their Chief (Scrubs’ John McGinley) to cover a multiple homicide in the rich end of town. The case gets complicated as they begin to encounter Picasso (Matthew Fox
). Picasso seems to find pleasure in torture and pain. Cross thinks he has profiled Picasso, however, after Cross’ team interferes with his plans, Picasso turns his attention towards them. While still fulfilling his job as a hit man, Picasso plans to take out Alex Cross.
Parts of the film are somewhat slow, as if it can’t quite get going. But something tragic happens in Cross’ life and he changes – he sets out as Detective second and as angry husband first. By far the best parts of the film is Fox as Picasso. He is truly a creepy bad guy. He looks and sounds the part. Picasso is to Cross what the Joker is to Batman. At one point in the film, Picasso says to Cross, “I made you.” As if to say that Cross would not have been so motivated to solve the case and capture Picasso, had he not done what he did to Cross.
If you are a huge Alex Cross fan, you will find it, as I did, odd that Cross is in Detroit. Cross was born in North Carolina and then sent to live with Nana Mama in Washington, D.C. where the Cross novels all at least start and end. Aside from that, you will be happy to see Cross and his family and to see Cicely Tyson’s Nana Mama. A petite, African-American woman who is sharp, quick, and honest. When Perry stands next to Tyson, it reinforces the concept Patterson works so hard to capture in the Cross novels, that despite her size, Nana Mama is one tough lady.
In the beginning of the film, Alex meets with a young woman in prison, not as Detective Cross, but as Dr. Cross. She says to him, “You can’t save everybody, Dr. Cross.” The idea of salvation almost seems to haunt Cross throughout the film. Once he realizes that he has underestimated Picasso as just a hit man, he seems to lose all ability to save people. When Cross sets out to seek revenge, Nana Mama (wonderfully played by the great Tyson) tells him to be careful he doesn’t lose his own soul. She goes on to tell him to be mindful of the person he leaves as and the person he returns as. Once the case is finished and Alex has put it to rest, he comes home and stays outside the very door he had that conversation with Nana Mama. He watches as she gives the children instructions to pack, as they are moving to Washington, D. C. She notices him, and finishes her sentence to the children, “You don’t want to leave behind anything you love.”
She’s speaking, of course, of Alex. But she could also be speaking of who we are. Anger and feelings of revenge can get the best of us. Nana Mama asks Alex if he thinks he’s going to be judge, jury, and executioner, naming for him the feelings of revenge he has. Jesus says in Matthew 5:21-22:
You have heard it was said to those who lived long ago, ‘Don’t commit murder,’ and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. (Common English Bible)
Nana Mama reminds us that we must be careful how we act upon our feelings. “Don’t lose your soul,” she warns us along with Alex Cross.