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Alex Cross released Friday, October 19th, 2012. I saw it the 25th. I walked into the theatre where it was playing, and there were two other people sitting there.
An older gentleman walked in just as it was about to start. Since it was a Thursday afternoon, I was not all that surprised by the turnout. Fans of Tyler Perry, who know him for his comedic roles, should expect a different Perry, because very different is what they will get. Fans of Matthew Fox, known for his role in the TV show LOST, should likewise prepare themselves for a different side of the actor. He plays sick and twisted well. Alex Cross is fast paced, the characters are believable, and the fight scenes, while rather jittery and tight, are choreographed highly realistically.
As an unrevealing summary, Alex Cross is about a Detroit cop with the title name who has psychological instinct and can piece together a bad guy’s motive. A sadistic killer, code-named “Picasso”, is doing a “job” (a sadistic one, albeit) when the police get involved. Cross interferes (as a cop should), and Picasso then makes things very personal for Cross, which drives both of them to further extremes.
The opening sequence is of a slum portion of Detroit. The film starts with a chase scene through ruined and crumbling buildings. Detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and a few other police officers, including boyhood friend Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and a girl-cop Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) bring a thug down. This scene, (and the one immediately afterward, in a prison), other than being used to introduce the central characters, does nothing to advance the film. Todd McCarthy, in his review of the film for The Hollywood Reporter, critically dismisses the characters, essentially saying they had no believability, with the exception of Picasso. “Fox is plenty convincing as the cretin without the merest morsel of humanity, while the other actors just cash their paychecks […]”
I disagree. While perhaps deeper levels of humanizing the characters were missing, the foundations were there, so they at least had some believability. Cross’ fellow cop Tommy Kane is romantically involved with Monica Ashe; we see Tommy’s caring and worried side as Monica enters dangerous situations. Instead of going for a rather stereotypical toughie girl-cop, actress Rachel Nichols plays Monica as a tom-boy cop that is also feminine. It is refreshing to see. The main characters, Alex Cross and Picasso, seemed to be the most developed.
Alex Cross, a family-man and psychologist working for the Detroit PD, is played by Tyler Perry. The strongest drive behind Cross’ motives, and ultimately what makes him such a believable character, is his need to protect his family at all costs. He is driven to extremes to right the wrongs done by Picasso, and becomes so enraptured in his task, that he goes to measures that he normally would not (for example, using brute force against a suspect, when normally he would sit down and try to gain intelligence through conversation). The drive to protect his family is what makes him so real; practically any parent can relate, and almost every son or daughter can appreciate.
The maniacal assassin, code-named Picasso, (Matthew Fox) is a sick and twisted villain. Fox plays bad well, and the ticks and quirks he gave Picasso gave the character extra credibility.
One time in particular, after killing someone, his neck twitched, his eyes got bigger, and he cocked his head, as if it thrilled him. The character’s need to inflict pain is his motive. Indeed, Picasso himself admits, “I am fascinated by pain.” To Cross, he says, “Inflicting pain is a crucial part of my true calling.” Picasso also drives himself to experience unimaginable levels of pain; after taking a shot to the arm, he works out…with the blood still flowing. He is then shown closing the wound with a blowtorch.
The previous sentence, I believe, merits the rating of the film. It is PG-13, for good reason. Violence, language, sexual content, and partial nudity are present. Under the violence category, Picasso tortures his victims while they are under a drug that paralyzes them, but allows them to still be aware of feeling. He cuts off a woman’s fingers, and uses a blowtorch to cauterize the bleeding. He mutilates another victim’s face. While we are spared of seeing the actual step-by-step process of both crimes, crime scene scenes and police photos show us the damage done. Other violence includes bombs going off, people being killed/murdered, and a car crash. Boxing and fist fights are also in the film, and are choreographed realistically. The weaponry the characters used was impressive; huge guns, bombs, and pistols added a lot of macho to the film.
God’s name is taken in vain multiple times. The “a” word is used occasionally, as is the “d” word. As far as sexual content, Picasso is seen removing a woman’s stockings in bed and tying her up, before administering his paralyzing drug. A man and a woman are shown in bed together; Picasso works out in the nude, but in both instances the camera thankfully hides anything that would push the rating to R.
The pacing of the movie is fast. Once Picasso enters the picture, events start snowballing. Even if the scenes do not have action in them all the time, there is something interesting going on.
The climax of the film is a fight between Picasso and Cross. The frames of the camera were in on the action so tight that it was, at points, difficult to tell what was going on, and who was striking whom. Todd McCarthy’s review says, “The lighting is dark, it's framed so tightly you can't tell who's hitting whom or what's going on, and the camera's intense jitters make it a virtual parody of filmmakers trying to make something exciting by shaking the camera.”
While McCarthy is right about the lighting and camera issues, it may be beneficial to take into account the location. The fight took place in the upper-workings of a very old theatre. Because of where the two were fighting, the lighting was both good and bad. Good, in the fact that it contributed to the scene well; it was a dismal look that added to the mood of the fight and location. Bad, because it prevented the audience from seeing clearly the actions of the characters. The camera movement was distracting, but jittery camerawork is often a trick filmmakers use to add chaos to a scene. In most scenes, it served its purpose, but it had a near-dizzying effect.
The locations used were wonderful. A gorgeous hotel with a stunning waterfall in the lobby, the aforementioned theatre, a metro area where the suspense about Picasso’s next move builds, Picasso’s home, and even Cross’ own home all contribute nicely to the film. Cross’ home has a sense of reality to it. A chalkboard in the kitchen has reminders and notes on it; his daughter’s small patio has scattered toys, and looks much like a child’s play-place of real life. Picasso’s home is covered with chalk drawings and newspaper clippings, and very much so reflects the organized insanity of Picasso.
Overall, Alex Cross fulfilled my expectations. I went in eager to see Mathew Fox play a villain, and was overjoyed to see his Picasso portrayed the ugliest way possible. The film was fast paced; the characters, for the most part, were believable; the locations were perfect, and the action did not disappoint. For any lover of the action or suspense/thriller genre, this movie would be a worthwhile watch. Movies are supposed to entertain, and that is what Alex Cross did.