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Exercise caution when seeing Tyler Perry's new release, 'Alex Cross'

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

This film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Tyler Perry in the title role during a scene from This film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Tyler Perry in the title role during a scene from "Alex Cross." (Summit Entertainment, Associated Press)

The movie "Alex Cross" is an average film with a solid cast that will appeal to devotees of procedural crime dramas, psychological thrillers or the best-selling author James Patterson.

But families, be warned: Despite its PG-13 rating, "Alex Cross" will weary diligent parents who supervise what media their children consume. Because even though the movie resists the primary pillars of “graphic content” — sexual nudity, bloody violence and coarse language — the material in “Alex Cross” repeatedly pushes the content envelope so far in so many other ways that, quite frankly, this reviewer is surprised the film didn’t merit an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.

This film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Edward Burns, left, and Tyler Perry in a scene from This film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Edward Burns, left, and Tyler Perry in a scene from "Alex Cross." (Summit Entertainment, Associated Press)

The basics

Arriving in theaters Friday, “Alex Cross” is based on Patterson’s book “Cross.” The film’s title character — played here by ascendant movie mogul Tyler Perry — is a Detroit homicide detective with a Ph.D. in psychology. (Morgan Freeman played Alex Cross in 1997’s “Kiss the Girls” and 2001’s “Along Came a Spider,” but in terms of the chronology of Patterson’s books, those two movies occur many years after the events depicted in “Alex Cross.”)

Throughout most of “Alex Cross,” the eponymous detective leads a team of cops (Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols) in hot pursuit of the sadistic hit man known as Picasso (Matthew Fox). But the plot thickens when Picasso sets his sights on punishing his pursuers — effectively transforming the hunters into the hunted.

Tyler Perry in Tyler Perry in "Alex Cross." (Summit Entertainment)

Content concerns

First, the good news regarding the presence of objectionable content in “Alex Cross”: Two bedroom scenes depict nothing explicit; only minimal amounts of blood are ever shown emerging from bullet holes or knife wounds; and instances of offensive language are few and far between.

However, much of “Alex Cross” feels out of line with a PG-13 rating. For example, the bedroom scenes in particular — despite not “showing” anything — are far too intimate, steamy and suggestive for teenagers.

Then there’s the issue of violence — which, in “Alex Cross,” is practically a cottage industry unto itself. At one point the audience watches one woman slowly expire after being shot in the chest by a sniper rifle. A mixed-martial arts fight ends with a gruesome broken arm after several minutes showing all kinds of punching, choking and kicking. The barbarous hit man Picasso injects a woman with a drug that paralyzes her body but leaves her conscious, and then proceeds to torture her by cutting off her fingers with a pair of gardening pruners.

Edward Burns, right, and Tyler Perry in a scene from Edward Burns, right, and Tyler Perry in a scene from "Alex Cross." (Summit Entertainment)

Seemingly the only characteristic all that violence shares in common is the complete absence of blood — which is odd, because in “real life” people bleed (often profusely) following shootings, digit dismemberment or MMA fights.

Additionally, dead bodies and destructive explosions are pervasive throughout “Alex Cross.”

Perry’s big play

Perhaps the most newsworthy aspect of “Alex Cross” is the fact it represents Perry venturing beyond his niche audience. Because presently, Perry’s first-class earning power hasn’t exactly translated into mainstream notoriety.

Aside from a brief cameo in “Star Trek,” Perry’s turn in “Alex Cross” represents the first time Perry has ever appeared in a film that he did not both write and produce. Indeed, Perry has made 13 movies since 2005 — and for each of those films he filled at least three of the following roles: writer, director, producer or actor.

None of Perry’s films has ever grossed more than $90 million at the domestic box office, but his projects — often centered around themes of faith and family — consistently eclipse $50 million thanks to a dedicated fan base.

Generating an average of two new movies every year, combined with the fact he gets to pocket most of the profits given his behind-the-scenes financing of those films, has led to some industry-leading wealth for Perry. Forbes magazine estimates he has earned more than $235 million over the last two years — making him the second highest-paid entertainer, trailing only his close friend and business partner Oprah Winfrey ($355 million).

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company