Avoiding Tyler Perry like the plague has always been a rule of thumb. If you're trying to be an open-minded film critic, you still give a decent amount of films a fair chance even if you're not particularly interested in them or fall into their target audience. Just seeing trailers and TV spots alone for the Madea movies has been enough though and the best thing Perry has done up until this point was be parodied on the "South Park" episode "Funnybot." Maybe it was that mindset, never getting around to seeing "Kiss the Girls" or "Along Came a Spider," and not having any expectations at all that made "Alex Cross" more entertaining than it had any right to be.
Perry is going to surprise a lot of people. Alex Cross is an incredibly intelligent homicide detective; his skills are nearly unprecedented. But he's also a family man with two kids, a wife, and another kid on the way. Along with his childhood best friend and partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), Cross can handle pretty much anything that is thrown at him. This is his breaking point though. This is the case that pushes him over the edge. A tragic, life-changing event occurs that sends Cross into an emotional downward spiral that leads him down the path of vengeance and away from the rules of the law. Perry deserves at least some credit for portraying as much emotion as he does and is stronger during the sadder moments of the film.
The sole reason you should see "Alex Cross" is for Matthew Fox. Fox is a highly skilled assassin with no name, but is known as "Picasso" for the art he leaves at the scene of the crime. He has an infatuation for using a drug called TTX, which leaves his victim's completely helpless but aware of the torture he puts them through. Fox is extremely lean and pure muscle in the film. Not only is his appearance unusual for him, but so is his performance. His body movements are so peculiar, his cold stare makes the hair on your arms stand up, and you just know something intense is about to occur whenever that vein in the middle of his forehead pops out. While Fox will probably be best known for "Lost," "Alex Cross" is certainly a game changer for him as Picasso is one of the most memorable and chilling villains of the year.
Giancarlo Esposito was really fantastic as the neat, clean, and organized druglord Gustavo "Gus" Fring on "Breaking Bad." He has such little screentime here and is mostly very forgettable, but the most amusing part about his character is that Cross lays into him about "knowing chemists" and demands a name for the person supplying the TTX. It seemed like a blatant homage to "Breaking Bad," but is more amusing if it's just some outstanding coincidence.
Everything the crime thriller has going for it is almost thrown away in the final confrontation between Cross and Picasso. It is really difficult to process just what the hell is going on during their fight scene at the abandoned movie theater. The camera movements are so sloppy, shaky, and fast moving that you can't really tell what's going on. The writing of the film also makes it seem like everyone at the police station who isn't directly involved with Cross or his team is completely incompetent. John C. McGinley as police chief Richard Brookwell is the main offender. He always wants to take charge and wants everything done his way, but in reality he's completely clueless to the task at hand.
Tragic events take a completely mediocre crime thriller and turns "Alex Cross" into something a little more worthwhile. The emphasis on that tragedy and the consequences which are constantly being revealed throughout the rest of the film pack a bigger punch than you may be expecting. Tyler Perry reveals that he can portray drama and emotion with ease. Matthew Fox is sick, deranged, and absolutely outstanding. Think of "Alex Cross" like popcorn entertainment with extra butter that you didn't ask for, but you'll appreciate in the meantime.