Move over, Madea: There's a new Tyler Perry at the cineplex. After hamming it up as a sassy, gun-toting grandmother in a half-dozen Madea comedies, Perry has abruptly shifted to gritty drama, replacing Morgan Freeman as the titular detective in Alex Cross, a new thriller which serves as a prequel to Freeman's Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider (all based on James Patterson novels). Alex Cross sees Perry racing across Detroit to catch "Picasso" (Matthew Fox), a sadistic serial killer who leaves buried clues at his crime scenes. (Watch a trailer for Alex Cross below.) Can Tyler Perry headline a dramatic film like Alex Cross, or is he out of his league?

Perry is completely miscast as Alex Cross: "Picture Alan Alda in the title role of Dirty Harry, and you have a good idea why [this] doesn't work," says Randy Cordova at The Republic. As an actor, Perry's biggest strength is his ability to "radiate niceness and decency," and he acquits himself well in the earliest scenes when Cross is bantering with his wife or comforting a child. But when Perry begins to pursue the serial murderer (Fox), the actor "just can't muster up the rage or sense of danger" the movie requires.
"Review: Alex Cross"

Perry could never hope to fill Morgan Freeman's shoes: Over the past decade, Perry has proven himself as a writer, producer, director, and actor, but "he simply doesn't project the intelligence or the authority that Freeman does" in the previous Alex Cross films, says Dan Lybarger at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It's clear why the role was recast; Freeman is "too long in the tooth to play an active duty law enforcement professional." But Perry, who "lacks Freeman's range and his expressive features," falls well short as a replacement.
"Featherweight: Tyler Perry just can't pull his weight in Alex Cross"

Actually, Perry is fine — but Alex Cross isn't: Other than a cameo in 2009's Star Trek, Tyler Perry has never acted in a movie he didn't direct, so it's impressive he's even "capable of carrying such a project," says Lawrence Toppman at The Charlotte Observer. But Cross is a "mid-quality, surprise-free" thriller that "becomes ridiculous when explained." By managing to deliver the movie's ridiculous dialogue and silly twists without laughing, Perry proves "he's definitely a decent actor."
"Perry Cross-es over capably in fair thriller"

Consensus: Tyler Perry gives it his best, but he lacks the acting chops and the gravitas to anchor the cheesy, predictable Alex Cross.