Tyler Perry slips in new role as action hero

Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox star in the film ‘Alex Cross.’

Tyler Perry, action hero? When I think of box office action heroes, people like Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Will Smith and Matt Damon come to mind. Not Perry.

I imagine that just about everyone is used to seeing Perry don a wig, dress and makeup and go for the easy laughs in movie after movie. There have been a few Tyler Perry movies where he has not played Madea (Why Did I Get Married?), but they are not usually as successful or buzzworthy as the Madea ones. However, he has shown some decent dramatic acting chops in some of his more serious flicks.

The film Alex Cross is the first time he’s starring in a flick that he hasn’t written, directed and produced as well, so I had moderately high hopes of it being a good movie. And while it was nice to see Perry step outside his comfort zone, I didn’t quite buy him as a hotshot police detective running around, shooting a gun and solving crimes.

If the name Alex Cross rings a bell, it’s because Dr. Cross is the fictional detective/psychologist and protagonist of a popular book series by author James Patterson. And this isn’t his first time on the big screen. Cross was previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001).

Alex Cross takes us to the pre-Freeman days, with Perry as the younger protagonist. The adapted screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson loosely follows Cross, the 12th book in the series.

Before Dr. Cross worked at the FBI in Washington D.C. (as Freeman did in the first two movies), he was a detective in Detroit and that’s where Perry steps in. Cross lives with his grandmother Nana Mama (Cicely Tyson), wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo) and their two children. He has recently learned Maria is expecting baby number three.

Cross meets his match in The Butcher (a scary looking Matthew Fox), a sociopathic hired killer. The Butcher’s first crimes are the gruesome murders of a young woman and her hired help at home. Cross arrives on the scene and investigates with his partners Tommy (Edward Burns) and Monica (Rachel Nichols). The dead woman is a higher-up at a major corporation, so Cross and his team follow the trail and realize some of the company’s other employees may be next on The Butcher’s list.

Things get personal quickly when Cross foils The Butcher’s next hit attempt, and people close to Cross get caught in the crossfire.

The movie is PG-13, but some of the violence is rather graphic, in particular the murder of the young woman. The climatic fight scene is pretty lame and rushed. There’s no real sense of drama or question about who will live or die.

It’s been said that Perry will star in a sequel, but I have my doubts. I’m also not sure his Madea audience will follow him to a different type of role.