PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

(Why) Alex (Can't) Cross (Over)

Tyler Perry has no established persona. He's not a star, per se. He's a brand. An industry. A debated media topic... but he's not a star in the true sense of the word.


Alex Cross

Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Cicely Tyson, Carmen Ejogo, Giancarlo Esposito, John C. McGinley, Jean Reno
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-10-19 (General release)
UK date: 2012-11-30 (General release)
Website
Trailer

It's been Tyler Perry's problem his entire career. No matter how hard he tries, no matter how far his influence can exceed already established expectations, he still has a near impossible time tapping into the mainstream. Not in all mediums, mind you. Just films. After all, his TV series tend to defy industry precepts to pull in big numbers across the board, and his personal appearances and stage plays still draw huge numbers. But if you look closely at his work in film, you see a ceiling, a limited reach if you will. Before he became a phenomenon, long before he told every angry black woman to diary their dog-like mates, he was viewed as a niche artist serving a decided niche demo. Put another way, he was an known urban quantity serving an ignored ethnic audience eager to support him. Limited appeal. Limited legs beyond.

Of course, no one outside the pundits really cares/cared. As long as he could maintain minimal budgets ($5 to $20 million) and three to four times the return upon release, he was golden. He was sainted. He was the most powerful and profitable man in Hollywood. But no artist works in a vacuum. They want their work seen by as many people as possible. For Perry, that meant reaching out beyond the decidedly African American segment of the population that prefers his work. It means finding an ancillary series or franchise that, while never taking away from his core audience, would expand his already obvious influence. The answer, it seemed, was James Patterson's character, Alex Cross.

With a rich backstory and 18 novels to choose from, it was a good idea. On the downside, many already believed the famed policeman turned FBI agent was already owned by another actor - Morgan Freeman. In 1997, the Oscar winner played the role alongside Ashley Judd in the surprise hit Kiss the Girls. In 2001, he returned for Along Came a Spider. While both films where successful, few saw their future as a series. Then, in 2010, someone got the idea for an Alex Cross "reboot." British actor Idris Elba was chosen to star, and Pitch Black/ A Perfect Getaway's David Twohy was picked to direct. Then things got dicey and both men dropped out. Enter seasoned joke/journeymen Rob Cohen (Stealth, The Fast and the Furious). With Perry now associated with the project, people in high places started to get excited.

It was premature enthusiasm. By all accounts, the resulting movie is a mess. It's violence, sadistic, stupid, and sloppily handled. Cohen can't seem to find the proper tone or approach and while Perry is passable, he's just not the hardboiled detective type. Currently sitting in the low teens at Rotten Tomatoes, it is clear that critics didn't think much of the final cut. But they don't matter, right? Perry has never EVER been given a fair shake by snobby, so-called journalists, isn't that right? Indeed, for many, the only real indication of a Perry film's success or failure is opening weekend box office figures. That goofy, pot smoking, gun toting battleaxe Madea may never get a decent word from the experts, but the people vote with their dollars, and the drag act always brings them in.

In this case, however, said polling has proven poisonous. Alex Cross barely earned $12 million over the three day weekend, making it the worst opening for any Perry film, ever. Even more disconcerting, word of mouth was vicious, reducing the film down to a bad (and bloody) b-movie take on the typical killer on the loose conceit. Naturally, those wanting to see their hero do his typical serio-comedy cautionary tale shtick had to go in knowing that Alex Cross contained none of that. No hot grits to the face. No smacking little "chill-rin" in the face. No "He-lurrrr." No, Perry wanted to cross over, to become known not only for his pro-God preaching, but his ability to reach a wider, less inclined audience. And he failed.

Now the question becomes why? Why did Alex Cross fail and why can't Perry reach the mainstream? Well, there are several answers, many of which were apparently ignored when the time came to shout "Roll 'em!" Primary among them are the realities of the man's current career. For all intents and purposes, Perry is nothing more than his phenom status. He's yet to make a movie that many feel will endure, and for the most part, he has been recycling the plots of his already wildly successful stage plays to fuel his consistent creativity. This means he's working from a limited pool of resources. Once they dry up, all he will have left is Madea...and the shelf life on that sass mouthed senior is about to expire.

Even worse, as stated before, Perry is viewed as a niche within a niche, especially among those outside his sphere of influence. Urban comedies, like Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Friday, and Barber Shop have always been able to reach across the entire African American cultural divide, bringing in a few-to-many outside the racial loop along the way. Not Perry's films. They appeal to certain mindset within the already small community, an "old school, anti-rap" contingent that believes in the Good Book, corporal punishment, and the remnants of the Civil Rights Movement. Call it an older, more mature audience, or perhaps a more Christian, politically active contingent, but these are the types who will instantly run out to see the man in a skirt. They've proven to Perry that Madea means money...and that's about it.

The other aspect is a bit more tricky. Perry has no established persona. He's not a star, per se. He's a brand. An industry. A debated media topic...but he's not a star in the true sense of the word. He doesn't have the appeal of a Will Smith, or the gravitas of Freeman. He's not funny like Chris Rock or as versatile as Elba. Instead, he's a one note novelty that continues to crank out said narrow craft until someone at Lionsgate realizes the bottom and top lines no longer meet. At some point, a Madea movie will underperform, horribly, or a proposed hit will hobble, and Perry will become an afterthought, a 'thanks but no thanks,' a trivia question on a 2022 episode of Jeopardy. He's not about enduring. He's about entertainment...and easy money.

So Alex Cross was a joke right from the very start. Thrillers are never universal in their appeal (think family films - right, Ice Cube? - or comedies) and this one was a particularly hard sell. There was no buzz, no pre-release build-up. Had Perry wanted to break out and become a mainstream hero, he had a better chance with his bit part in J. J. Abrams' blockbuster Star Trek series than he did here. Unless he has the chops to really turn on the Method acting, he was bound to fail, destined to be downplayed and derided since he can't seem to get beyond the novelty stage, even when he's not trying. As an empire, he's untouchable. As a name, he's beyond known. But Tyler Perry is not really an actor. He's an act...and one that's yet to move beyond is already well worn and established niche.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.