REVIEW: Alex Cross Starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox. Directed by Rob Cohen. M. ★★
Three words can sum up the broad genre to which the crime thriller Alex Cross belongs: vigilante seeks vengeance.
There have been several versions of this film type over the years, from the likes of Batman, The Punisher and V for Vendetta to Machete, A Man Apart and Harry Brown.
The genre encompasses Russell Crowe's Gladiator, Jodie Foster's The Brave One, Mel Gibson's Edge of Darkness and, with the avenger becoming a crazed killer, Law Abiding Citizen.
But the most famous movie to fit this bill would be Charles Bronson's Death Wish (1974), which spawned four sequels.
In Alex Cross, the vigilante seeking vengeance is the title detective-psychologist, who discovers he's an expectant dad for the third time and proclaims he's "real happy". Not for long, we know.
Cross and his best friend-partner Tommy (Edward Burns) have personal reasons to find a sadistic assassin who's apparently targeting a rich French businessman (Jean Reno) in Detroit, but enjoys killing - and torturing - whoever gets in his way. To make sure we don't miss Cross' transition from cop to vigilante, his mother (Cicely Tyson) tells him he's choosing to become "judge, jury and executioner".
Tyler Perry - unlikely to be familiar to many moviegoers - portrays Cross, who was previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001). Perry's a solid hunk and smooth, but blandly and boringly so in a Steven Segal sort of way, making it too bad Idris Elba (TV's Luther) didn't get the role as initially thought likely.
Much more arresting, as so often is the case, is the movie's vicious villain, played by a barely recognisable, lean and sinewy Matthew Fox (TV's Lost), who, reminiscent of Christian Bale for The Machinist, shed 15kg, shaved his head and added a few facial tics to ensure we know he's seriously crazy for the role - and almost ends up looking a bit like Guy Pearce.
The movie is based on the crime novel Cross by James Patterson, a best-selling king of pulp fiction - and director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx) does his best to give the action a gritty, lurid feel. But overall Alex Cross is unpleasant B-movie fodder, whose generally bad dialogue is matched by a contrived, half-baked and at times laughable screenplay. Certainly, not the makings for a new movie franchise.
The Angels' Share Starring Paul Brannigan. ★★★★
British director Ken Loach often specialises in gritty, authentic social dramas - but in his 70s he seems to be more mellow. His comedy-drama The Angels' Share still adheres to his blue-collar roots, but is another feelgood, whimsical lark in the vein of his Looking for Eric (2010).
In a charming movie about temptation, redemption and whisky, a group of Glaswegian miscreants doing community service for misdemeanours and petty crimes plan to steal a priceless whisky from a warehouse.
In particular, the film focuses on new father Robbie (Paul Brannigan), who wants to mend his volatile, violent ways and make a fresh start; indeed, the film's best scene arguably is his meeting as part of restorative justice with a victim of his assault.
When work overseer and Scotch whisky fan Harry (John Henshaw) treats Robbie and his payback misfit mates to a trip to a distillery, Robbie discovers he has a nose for identifying malt whisky.
He also learns that "the angels' share" is the portion of whisky lost to evaporation during ageing in oak barrels - which becomes a metaphor for the robbery he undertakes and a gift that is made.
Working for the eleventh time with Loach and with a nod to the 1949 Ealing comedy Whisky Galore, screenwriter Paul Laverty sweetly delivers, if a bit unevenly in tone, a story that's part heist, part realistic drama and part warmhearted social comedy. It is good-humoured and puckish, with some slapstick and buffoonery.
It's embedded in the working-class world of people struggling with unemployment and poverty - with an accompanying sentiment that many of them just need a chance to show their true worth - but in contrast also mocks the ridiculous prices paid for premium whisky and the snobbery associated with it.
The Angels' Share won the Jury Prize and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Strangely, it comes with an R16 certificate while Alex Cross only rates an M.
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