Alex Cross



Perry underwhelms in formulaic, violent action thriller.
  • Review Date: October 18, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The story's message is that sometimes vengeance is better than waiting for the law to provide justice.

Positive role models

Alex Cross starts out as a role model who relies on smarts and intuition to solve crimes, but his moral code becomes a vigilante need for justice through vengeance. His mother, though, is the movie's moral center, reminding him that despite his despair, he still has to come home and raise two children.


The killer in this movie isn't just a paid hit man, he's a psychopath who relishes inflicting pain. Some people he just shoots and kills instantly (with sniper precision), and others he tortures (viewers see him cut off a sedated and bound woman's finger and later find out he cut them all off, after hearing the sounds of it happening). He also kills his target's wife just for fun and takes a photo of a decapitated woman's head that he then texts to her friend. There are several scenes of hand-to-hand combat, a couple of shootouts, a deadly fall onto a car, explosions that cause collateral damage, and an amateur MMA competition that leaves the loser incapacitated due to the winner's desire to cause serious pain.


One sex scene turns to violence: A woman wearing nothing but lingerie asks a man she's been flirting with (and thinks she's going to sleep with) to bind her arms -- but her anticipation turns to horror when he injects her with a drug. Another brief sex scene. A married couple kisses and cuddles a few times.


Language includes a couple of mumbled words that could be "f--k," plus "s--t," "son of a bitch," "ass," "hell," "ass," "damn," "goddamn," and "oh my God."


Car brands prominently featured include Cadillac, Ford, and OnStar. Apple computers are also visible.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A made-up drug is a central plot point. It sedates and paralyzes people but leaves them aware of their surroundings. The killer drugs some of his victims so he can torture them. A rich businessman offers Alex Louis XIII cognac that costs thousands of dollars. He declines, but the millionaire drinks it. Adults at a restaurant have drinks.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Alex Cross is a quasi-prequel to the other James Patterson-based dramas featuring a much-older Cross (played by Morgan Freeman in Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls). The younger version of Cross (played by Tyler Perry) is even more willing to chase criminals and do what's necessary to stop them -- and that doesn't necessarily mean getting them behind bars. The violence isn't as extreme as, say, a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it's probably equivalent to one of the newer Bond films. In other words, it's not just shootouts, but also scenes of torture, a decapitated head, and a pregnant woman killed for pleasure by a villain who takes joy in inflicting pain. Even iffier? In the end, the movie's message seems to be that even officers of the law sometimes need to take a morally questionable path toward justice. Also expect some language ("s--t," etc.), a scene with a lingerie-clad woman, and lots of GM vehicles.

What's the story?

ALEX CROSS (Tyler Perry) is a Detroit detective who specializes in criminal profiling. He and his partners -- best friend Tommy (Edward Burns) and younger cop Monica (Rachel Nichols) -- are the police department's premiere detective team. But when a hit man (a crazy-eyed Matthew Fox) inexplicably kills three goons and a beautiful businesswoman with ties to a multinational corporation trying to plan a revitalization project in the Motor City, things start to get especially dangerous for everyone around Cross. The assassin switches his attention from a trio of business leaders to Cross and the people he loves. When tragedy strikes Cross personally, he and Tommy decide to go after the hit man by any means possible.

Is it any good?


The best part of Alex Cross is the supporting performances by actors too good to be in such a forgettable thriller. There's John C. McGinley playing Cross' politically motivated police chief; the imperious Jean Reno as a French billionaire; and Breaking Bad break-out Giancarlo Esposito as a Detroit gangster Cross goes to for help in his quest for vengeance. Also of note is the always fabulous Cecily Tyson, who's sadly reduced to playing the stereotype of the sage old voice of reason.

Sadly, even the presence of such wonderful actors can't save Alex Cross from being utterly dismal. Whether it's the lazy screenplay with its predictable outcome and derivative touches (a head in a box has never pulled the same punch since David Fincher's Seven) or the fact that Lost star Fox spends the entire movie with an over-the-top look of insanity that's almost laughable, there's just no end to the reasons to be underwhelmed by this thriller. Yes, Cross is a genius who can tell everything about everyone with his hyper-observant eyes, but some of his profiling monologues border the ridiculous. If there's any injustice this movie proves, it's that a beloved book hero has yet to get a decent movie adaptation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the meanings of justice and vengeance -- are they the same? How does Alex Cross' approach to the hit man (and his boss) change throughout the movie? Why are movies about vengeance so popular?

  • How is the villain in Alex Cross portrayed? Does he seem to have an actual agenda? Was his story resolved in a satisfactory way?

  • When is it OK to break the rules (or go outside the law)? When isn't it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 19, 2012
DVD release date:February 5, 2013
Cast:Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Tyler Perry
Director:Rob Cohen
Studio:Summit Entertainment
Topics:Book characters
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byslowgary October 27, 2012

Family Movie, WTF?

How is this even listed as a family movie? C'mon commonsensemedia, this is just common sense... it's a movie about a serial killer. WTF?
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byimsocool101 December 4, 2012


very violent diffinetley not for kids. felt uncomfortable being there
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent Written bySassy Sharon October 21, 2012

Don't waste your money!

I read the book,not even close,When you are waiting for a GOOD movie to come out.......whatt a disappointment!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence


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