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The background.

When I learned that Alex Cross, the character created by James Patterson, is indeed a black man within the context of his own literary series I became an almost habitual reader. Of the 17 books published, I’ve read 12 of them so I have a really well working base of the material.

To adequately review “Alex Cross” directed by Rob Cohen and starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox and Cicely Tyson, I’m doing an in-depth analysis of the film franchise in comparison to the book series.

The Sampson, Nana Mama Effect: Or the lack thereof. Everyone has a BFF and a parental figure and Alex Cross is no different but the movie franchise has disregarded the existence of both John Sampson and his grandmother Nana Mama. Sampson was just a small two-bit character in “Kiss the Girls” (played by Bill Nunn) and Nana Mama was nowhere to be found until now (played by Tyson).

The significance of that? Sampson and Alex have been friends since they were kids and they are partners on the D.C. police force.  Instead, “Alex Cross” used Tommy Kane (played by Edward Burns), a white man, to replace Sampson, who of course is black, as that childhood friend of Alex. The actual portrayal of the relationship between Tommy and Alex could have been developed deeper instead of just spoken context but it turned me off with that slight racial caveat.

Official movie poster for “Alex Cross” starring Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox.

The most disappointing character from the film is Tyson’s portrayal of Nana Mama. As legendary as Cicely is, she made Nana Mama too subdued. Patterson wrote Nana Mama to more of a southern grandmother — feisty.  A slightly lesser version of well — Madea.  Tyson’s screen time was very short but she didn’t steal those moments as should, or could have.

Even with Freeman, Cross was Rotten: At the time of writing this, “Alex Cross” holds a 13 percent rating with the movie rating website ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ — meaning well, it stinks. The casting of Perry as an action star after all of his Madea exploits largely play a factor in the critics bashing of the film.

Perry’s supposed to be its center. And as an actor — certainly as a movie star — he’s absolutely nowhere to be found. – Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

Floundering attempt by Tyler Perry to fill Morgan Freeman’s trench coat. -Susan Granger, SSG Syndicate

The 6-5 Perry’s most believable moment is when his character has to reach something from a high shelf. That feels real. -Nell Minow, Beliefnet

What people may not know is that when Freeman helm the role of Alex Cross, “Along Came a Spider” finished at 32 percent and “Kiss the Girls” was 30 percent — both equaling to rotten. So, according to critics, the clout of Freeman STILL didn’t make the Cross movies good.

With that being said, I felt that Perry did a very solid job. Was it flawless? Absolutely not. Will Perry get nominated for an Oscar? Pleeeze. Seeing Perry acting into tears wasn’t the greatest scene in the world but he executed what needed to be executed for what the script wanted him to do. In some respects, Perry was along with par with what Freeman did with Cross, and Perry had MORE range to portray than Freeman’s Cross who was just even keeled the entire two films.

Fragmentation: The one word to describe Alex Cross books.

I’m semi-loyal to Alex because of him, not the writing.

To put it bluntly, as ‘prolific’ as James Patterson is, he’s a shotty writer. There’s a reason why writer’s put out one book every year or so — great stories take time. In an article published by the Speakeasy in March, it was reported that Patterson will have 13 books released this year (although he technically doesn’t write many of them).

Patterson books are quick reads — a lot of short, long chapters. Meaning the chapters are one to three pages long but a book may contain 130 chapters. The action jumps around the story develops in short bursts like a flip book.

Even the movie releases were disjointed. “Kiss the Girls” was released in 1997 before “Along Came a Spider” (2000) despite Along Came a Spider was published first. “Alex Cross” is no different.

Supposedly based on the 12th book of the series, Cross, “Alex Cross” uses only the antagonist (Michael Sullivan played greatly by Matthew Fox) and the explanation (although differently from the book for dramatic reasons) of Cross’ wife Maria’s (played by Carmen Ejogo) death as the only similarities.

But what made the Morgan Freeman-led “Cross” films better in my view is that they followed the actual source material more accurately than Alex Cross did, which is peculiar since Marc Moss (who wrote the screenplay of “Along Came a Spider”) was involved with the screenplay. Cross is pretty good of a story and if the movie followed the book, the movie would have been a whole lot better.

“Alex Cross” is a reboot, much like “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a water-downed telling of his ‘origin’ that was not done in the previous two incarnations.  Cohen and writers Moss and Kerry Williamson was able to capture the essence of who Alex is — family man first (simply put) and a doctor of psychology who uses that knowledge to deduce or “profile” the murders (in this case, the Butcher) second.

The jokes weren’t funny, the police captain Richard Brookwell (played by John C. McGinley) was terrible and the fact that they took Alex out of D.C. (where he is in the book series) to Detroit only to move him to D.C. to work with the FBI (setting up the sequels here) almost made me scream in the theater.

For die-hard fans of Alex Cross, stay as far as way from the movie as possible.

But for those unfamiliar with the character, I’ll recommend it.



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