I have no familiarity with this Alex Cross character, either from the books by James Patterson or the two previous movies starring Morgan Freeman. But when they do a new one starring the guy from the Madea movies and from the director of STEALTH and the bad guy is Matthew Fox as a perverted ex-military, scuba-diving, charcoal-drawing, mixed martial artist assassin/rapist I figure it might be worth a look. And it is.
I’m not saying this is a good or even passable movie. It seems more like a fake parody movie from within another movie or a TV show than an actual thing that professional people would purposely make and release. But I mean that as a compliment. This is some awesomely stupid bullshit right here. You will like it. Or at least I did.
Dr. Alex Cross (Tyler Perry [!?]) is apparently some kind of super-profiler/psychologist/family man who is introduced running through a sewer shooting at some guy. So he’s also a supercop. He lives in Detroit where he has a team of detectives including Thomas Kane (Ed Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols from GI JOE 1 and P2). He has Sherlock Holmes style intuitive super powers, which he uses to play around with his wife and then to insist to Kane that a massacre they’re investigating was committed by one man. This is supposed to show how awesome he is that he knows this, but it’s not really clear how he knows for sure. He’s just real intuitive I guess is whole thing.
In today’s adventure they take on the unnamed assassin played by Fox. This character is introduced like an elite hitman, wearing an expensive suit, driving an expensive car, getting a call from a mysterious client. He’s targeting an inaccessible rich lady (Stephanie Jacobsen) but he knows exactly how to get to her: go into an old church where she’s watching the cage fights, buy his way into a spontaneous match against the local champion, force that guy to tap out but then snap one of his bones anyway so that naturally she’ll take him home for sex and get away from her bodyguards (including Philip Rhee from the BEST OF THE BEST movies) so he can paralyze her and cut off all her fingers and steal her laptop.
Fox looks like a total weirdo with shaved head, chiseled muscles but disgustingly skinny, veins popping up all over the place. I don’t know if I can quite call what he’s doing mega-acting, because I would like to see more yelling. But he is definitely pretty over-the-top with his eye-bugging and stuff. Throughout the movie he winces and twitches orgasmically (or like he’s having a seizure?) after killing somebody or thinking about it. In one scene he wears those stupid shoes that have toes on them (to be fair he first used them underwater). In another scene he’s stalking Alex Cross and he sits in his car drawing a portrait of him.
I’m not familiar with Perry from his movies or plays, but it’s still funny to see this giant man sawing off a shotgun, getting righteously chewed out by Cicely Tyson for going down a dark path and disappointing his children. (There’s also a funny scene where he sneaks up behind her in the kitchen, picks her up and shakes her like she’s a little kid.) He doesn’t have a writing or producing credit but I suspect he had some say in getting a surprising amount of family drama into the thing. For example there’s a pretty long, sincere scene about him talking to his daughter about (SPOILER) the death of her mother. That was interesting.
Man, there’s so much funny shit in this movie all I can really do to paint a picture is to give you some examples. The aforementioned wife-murder scene is comical in the amount of foreshadowing, they do everything but the “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” singalong. I mean, as soon as she’s pregnant you know she’s a goner, but the real kicker is when Cross and wife are having dinner at a restaurant, arguing about a job he wants to take. She says, “We’re going to work this out together. Together.” Practically looking into the camera. Then they toast on it, he says it’s bad luck to toast with water and she says that’s just a superstition and does it anyway. Next thing you know she’s flying through the air after getting hit by an apparently very powerful sniper’s bullet.
After her death Dr. Cross goes real dark. He punches out an innocent security guard when breaking into the police evidence locker to steal supplies. He has an amazing line to the killer: “Here’s another emotion for ya: it’s pleasure. The pleasure I’m gonna get when I watch your soul oozin’ out of your body you maggot.” (He calls people maggots a couple times, actually.)
Kane also loses his girl, but since she wasn’t pregnant he doesn’t get that upset that he starts calling people the m-word. In fact, I had to rewind to make sure it really was his girl that died, because he seems to get over it surprisingly quick. It seems like he’s more supporting Cross avenging his wife than personally avenging his own girlfriend.
Jean Reno has a small but important part. I think he’s basically in two scenes. In the first one he shakes Cross’s hand and starts apologizing about his 14 carot ring given to him by the king of Cambodia. In the other scene, not to give anything away but it turns out that a certain giant ring he told us all about for no apparent reason turns out to be significant. Also Reno has the goofiest exchange with Cross:
“Do you like nature, Dr. Cross?”
“Human nature,” Cross says, smiling proudly.
You see? ‘Cause he’s fascinated by human thinking and behavior, so much so that he awkwardly brags about it when a weird guy with a giant ring says a non-sequitur to him that can set up a bad pun about it.
Cross is also awkward joking around with his sidekick Kane. There’s an amazing little bit where they comically fumble around with a bowl of severed fingers at a murder scene after they realize they can use them to get past a fingerprint scanner and snoop in the dead lady’s safe. Whatever kind of gallows humor they were trying for in the scene I don’t think they got it quite right. Also, I feel like there were several procedural and moral violations going on there.
But my absolute favorite thing in the movie is when Dr. Cross and team show up at a high security building and try to convince the guards that the rich guy they protect is about to be attacked. The guards don’t believe them until an alarm starts beeping… an alarm that means the water pressure is lowering on the lobby fountain. Why do they have such an alarm? Nobody knows. Has it ever beeped before? No. Cross asks them, and they say no. But it’s a good thing they have it because sure enough the killer is wearing scuba gear climbing through a water pipe to get to his target.
That lobby-fountain-water-pressure-alarm seems awfully convenient, like Adam West’s bottle of Bat Shark Repellant Spray. But I think this building’s security system was designed by a madman. Later the intended target pushes a button that brings down security doors, but then they can’t leave because the doors can only be opened from the outside. Uh, hey mister, I think your panic room doors were put in backwards.
If I wasn’t already in love with this movie I think the end credits would’ve sealed the deal. There we find an overly detailed rap account of the events of the film. The song is called “I, Alex Cross (Only God Can Judge Me)” by Trick Trick and Dina Rae Franks. A choice lyric:
“I don’t want no trouble, there’s a life inside my soul mate / Gotta stop this killer, those are LIVES that he tryin to take / Who’s to say today will be the day that I turn to hate / He’s on the phone starin at my wife, but I’m too late.”
See that? This Trick Trick guy is following in Morgan Freeman and Tyler Perry’s footsteps by portraying the character of Alex Cross, and just in that one part he explains that Cross’s wife is pregnant, the circumstances of her murder and the effect it will have on him.
In another part of the song he says, “Love is in the air but somewhere somebody love to hate.” Perry’s Dr. Cross tries (briefly) to profile the killer and figure out what makes him tick, but Trick Trick’s Dr. Cross gets down to brass tacks, he knows that this is just “somebody [who] love to hate.”
I was gonna tell everybody to be sure to stay through the credits, but then I discovered there’s a video for it on Youtube:
In 2004 when I self-published a book of movie reviews I had a chapter entirely dedicated to the films of Rob Cohen, because I figured no other book would ever have that, so it would be historic. I’m glad that he’s still doing his thing. He doesn’t have the chops of Renny Harlin but he has some of that lovably brazen stupidity. Since that book he’s added Jet Li and friendly yetis to the MUMMY series and made a notorious box office flop (STEALTH) that in its own brain-dead way actually dealt with the increasingly relevant topic of unmanned military vehicles. Meanwhile, his 2001 carsploitation movie THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS holds up really well and somehow spawned one of the longest running, most consistently entertaining movie series’ going today.
But he is a commercial filmatist and the box office hasn’t been that kind to him in recent years. This is actually him working on a pretty low budget, and I think that’s good for him. The cheaper it is the crazier he can get with it. Clearly the grown ups weren’t paying attention on this one, and I thank them for their negligence.
Now I’m looking forward to ALEX CROSS: STATE OF THE UNION starring Ice Cube.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.