Making Movie History: Detective Morgan Freeman

I like an actor or actress to be very versatile in their ability to play different roles and play them well. It shows that they won’t fall into the trap of typecasting (see: Seann William Scott) and presents an even greater talent to turn their life and personality into whatever the film may bring them. What impresses me even more at times is witnessing an actor play the same exact role in different films. Hear me out here for a second because I’m not talking about typecasting. No, no! I’m talking about smart casting.

Christopher Reeve played Superman on numerous occasions. Robin Williams has taken the role of humorous degenerate time and time again. Julianne Moore has often been seen as the red headed temptress in more then just a couple films. This isn’t typecasting but it’s putting particular performers into roles that they it is obvious they’ll excel in. Sure they can be thrown into the motherly role or the shoes of a serious killer or even the over eccentric millionaire and pull them off without a hitch. Still it’s a specific character or certain acting hat that they seem to be purely perfect for and seem almost as if that is what they were born to do whether it’s on screen or for an everyday profession.

For Morgan Freeman; to me that’s the role of detective.

The man has a seriousness about him that just lets him pull off the solid and unnerving stance that a detective needs when dealing with a suspicious murder or possible serial killing. He has a voice that would make someone stealing a banana from a roadside fruit stand appear to be as big a deal as killing the president. When he shows up at a crime scene and gets that intense look on his face and begins piecing together evidence; all around him just stop and listen to him because he knows what he’s talking about. And even when he has those that oppose his views and opinions; he continues to plow on because Freeman knows exactly what he’s talking about.

Besides that, the man rocks the fedora nicely.

Note: These may not be all the films or occurrences in which Freeman played a detective, but it’s his most memorable performances with the police force in my eyes.

Detective Alex Cross in Kiss The Girls

Morgan Freeman first played the role of Detective Alex Cross in the 1997 film, Kiss The Girls. Ashley Judd co-starred with him as a kidnapped doctor that got away from a psychopath named Casanova. Cross gets involved because his niece Naomi is one of those that have been abducted and he is in a race to find her before she ends up found by the police after being left for dead. Let me just start by saying that this is a great film that is truly underrated and should have gotten much more attention then it originally did or still does. It has a great storyline that keeps a very serious mood to a rather interesting kidnapper/killer. The one downer in the film is Judd because her character of Kate McTiernan is annoying as all living hell and totally unbelievable.

I have a love-hate relationship with Ashley Judd, but that’s a story for another column.

Now moving onto Freeman as Detective Alex Cross. He plays the role perfectly and comes across as not only an intelligent detective, but one that is very likable and knows how to steal any scene he is in. Even though he is in scenes with Judd, Brian Cox, Cary Elwes, and Jay Sanders; it’s Freeman that draws all the attention to him by knowing what he is talking about and seeming most intuitive about the case at hand. He also does a phenomenal job of playing the frightened uncle that wants to solve this case to not only stop the murders but to get his niece back at all costs. I don’t think there is anyone else that could have played this role better.

Detective Alex Cross in Along Came A Spider

Freeman’s was so good as Detective Cross in Kiss The Girls that it seemed only appropriate to bring him back for the next film based on one of James Patterson’s novels. This time we see Cross retire from the force after feeling responsible for his partner’s death during a sting to capture a serial killer. Soon after this though, Cross is contacted with information regarding the kidnapping of a Senator’s daughter and wife. The kidnapper only will work with the retired detective because he wants to beat the best in the world that there is and knows that to be Alex Cross. Alex soon gets on the case with a brand new partner and goes through a series of twists and turns to make sure this madman does not get the recognition he deserves.

Ok, so maybe this film wasn’t nearly as good as Kiss The Girls but at least Ashley Judd wasn’t going all Rambo woman in it. The case itself kind of takes away from Cross’ family connection here and is merely working on his self-absorbency to solve a case thanks to the bad guy calling him the best detective in the world. Nonetheless, Freeman does another great job of making sure that he is the person everyone looks at and pays attention to whenever he is on screen. You can’t help but be drawn to his every word and just think he has everything figured out even though not even half of the clues are revealed yet.

Anyone else in the role of Alex Cross would have been just wrong because they would never have brought about the same emotion and intuitiveness that Freeman brought to the character. In a way it’s almost a shame that Patterson didn’t bring more of his novels to the big screen while Freeman was still up to playing the role. If he tried to do it now or later; it’s no surprise that Freeman isn’t getting any younger and probably wouldn’t take any of those roles now or later. There are at least a dozen more books with Cross as the main character and now it’s too late because even if they are made into film, they just won’t ever have the same effect without that iconic voice playing the part.

Detective William Somerset in Se7en

Well, I’m moving onto the film that came before Freeman ever donned the trench coat and fedora for Detective Cross and that is 1995’s Se7en. Here Freeman stars as Detective William Somerset who is mere days away from retirement when a brutally graphic serial killer stumbles onto the scene. Before he knows it, he’s on the case and also has a brand new partner that seems a bit loose around the edges. Little do Somerset and Detective David Mills realize that this is more then just a simple run of the mill serial killer case and that the nutjob is murdering people according to the seven deadly sins: sloth, greed, gluttony, wrath, lust, pride, and envy. Retirement has been put off for now and Somerset is determined to use his expertise to stop the lunatic from finishing his masterpiece.

From my knowledge this is Freeman’s first venture into detective work and by far his greatest. Maybe it helps that Se7en is such an incredibly awesome movie in the first place, but Freeman’s performance makes it that much better. The overall somber and disturbing mood of this film makes his monotone and low voice echo throughout your ears and creep you out even more. Throw on top of that the slow and stealth movements he displays as he saunters around a crime scene just looking for a clue to jump out at him through the grease and grime. Much like when he opens the fridge of the “Gluttony” victim and finds the tread marks in the floor. I know he’s an actor and simply doing what he’s directed to do, but you just feel like he’s showcasing his intelligence as a detective to decipher the scene before him.

There are two particular scenes in the film that would have to be my favorites and both of them involve big parts by Freeman. The first is when he’s sitting there with Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) and his Captain (R. Lee Ermey) at the station when they start going through the seven deadly sins. It not only sets the mood for the entire investigation, but shows the incredible amount of intelligence that sits in the brain of Detective Somerset. The other scene is when Somerset heads to the library late at night while the guards are playing cards and decides to do a little research. It’s a scene that sets him apart from everyone else in the film except for the killer (who I won’t reveal and spoil it for you, but you should have seen this by now) in way of education and determination. This scene also made me infatuated with Bach’s “Air On The G String” which is an absolutely beautiful song.

Well there you have it folks. My views on Morgan Freeman in one of the most perfect roles for him in the acting world and that’s a detective. He’s played a mastermind, criminal, inmate, best friend, and so many other things. I’ve loved insane amounts of his movies and always will, but I just can’t help but be drawn to the awesomeness he brings to the role of detective. I’ve seen all three of these movies countless times and will always continue to watch them repeatedly in hopes that one day I could be in the trench coat and fedora doing cool detective work like this. Although somehow I doubt it is exactly as it is portrayed in the movies.

Sorry about last week everyone but I’m back on track now this week and will certainly be back next Friday as it is one of my favorite days of every year. And boy do I have a special treat in store for all of you. Kill-kill-kill Mom-mom-mom!

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