By Garrett Platner
I recently watched Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry. This is Perry’s first foray into the action genre and let me tell you, he knocks it out the park. Perry has proven time and again that he knows the winning box office formula. After his successful conquering of the comedy genre, he expertly makes the transition into action star in Alex Cross. So let’s jump right into the review.
The movie opens with Cross running down a suspect. Here, we see Perry’s determination to be an action star. We get to see the amazing chemistry with him and his team. His two partners, Thomas and Monica, are played by Edward Burns and Rachel Nichols. They form a perfect trifecta of crime fighting and detective work. After running down the perp, Cross visits the local prison to play chess with an inmate he put there. Here we get to see Cross’ amazing powers of deduction and ability to empathize. His expert detective powers allowed him to see that the inmate was really innocent, and was taking the fall for someone else.
After the prison scene, Cross goes home to his children, wife, and mother. Here, we see Perry’s range come across when he is interacting with his children. Perry is already an expert at the family dynamic due to writing, directing, and starring in his successful Madea franchise. This is no more evident than when he interacts with his loving wife. He uses his expertly crafted detective skills to deduce that his wife is pregnant with their third child.
Next, we are introduced to the master villain known only as Picasso, played by Matthew Fox. Picasso crashes an underground MMA league and coaxes the booker to let him fight. He hatches a plan that can only be described as masterful and Machiavellian in nature. He plans to be so impressive in this fight that he catches the attention of his target and to be invited back to her house for the night. Picasso has an amazing fight (remember this for later) in which he tells his opponent not to punch him in the face or he would never fight again. His opponent of course ignores the warning and Picasso flips the crazy switch. After a merciless beating, Picasso then snaps the arm of his opponent in two. This is so attractive, his target immediately wants to get her some Picasso. In this scene, we not only see the amazing writing, we also see the range of emotion Matthew Fox is capable of.
At the woman’s house, Picasso is searched for weapons before being allowed in. He passes the checkpoint and proceeds to have drinks and food with his new found lady. Picasso gets to demonstrate his intellect and tactical knowledge by comparing their imminent sexual encounter and courtship game to war. One of the most brilliant lines of dialogue is uttered when she responds with “War has been declared” and proceeds to jump him. In the bedroom, Picasso uses a needle on the woman and seems to paralyze her and looks like he is going to torture her. Fox plays this scene masterfully and the audience can really feel the crazy. Picasso tortures and kills her and steals her laptop. He then reveals the gun hidden in his shoe and shoots his way out of the house.
Captain Brookwell, played by John C. McGinley of Highlander 2: The Quickening fame, calls Cross to inform him that a body was found. Cut to Cross Thomas and Monica in bed together and having sex when Cross calls Thomas to inform him they need to go to the crime scene. Thomas is worried that Cross will discover their secret because he knows Cross is a super-cop and will be able to see through them. Monica was not as convinced. Cross picks up Thomas and can see right through him. He is expertly able to see that Thomas and Monica are in a relationship and tells them they need to keep it in check for the good of the team. He also tells Thomas that he is going to have another child and that the FBI has given him an offer. No doubt in recognition of his expert skills in deduction. When they arrive, Cross uses his super-copness to reconstruct the murders. He finds a charcoal picture left by the the killer and thus, the name of Picasso is born.
While back at the station, the cops are reviewing the evidence and murders when Cross has a stroke of genius. While examining the picture, he folds it and discovers two initials and he instantly knows who the next target will be. That’s right, Cross figures out Picasso’s next victim through Origami. Cross, Thomas, and Monica race to save German businessman Erich Nunemarcher. When they get there, the German’s say they have no use for Cross and his team since they are a trained force. What they don’t know is that Picasso is already in the building and hiding in the water pipes like Mario. Since this is the one place the Germans never thought to look, Picasso easily infiltrates the building. When an alarm sounds, the Germans realize what everyone else has, that Cross is a super-cop with powers far beyond those of mortal men. They race to save Erich before Picasso can reach him. When they get there, Erich is still alive and manages to lock himself in his panic room with Thomas. After a shootout and several explosions, Erich opens the panic room to allow Thomas out and Thomas shoots Picasso in the arm, injuring him. He still manages to escape with a look in his eyes that suggests he will try to out-Cross Alex Cross.
Next, we see a look at the mind of Picasso. He is seen drawing naked and possibly performing sexual acts with himself. Fox expertly pulls off the tortured artist / psychopath motif. At this time, we also see Cross deducing and psychoanalyzing the actions of Picasso to better understand him. Cross deduces that Picasso is a “stimulus-seeking, sociopathic, narcissist.” Judging by Fox’s amazing portrayal, I would say he is spot on. Cross then goes all super-cop again and realizes that Picasso’s real target is CEO Giles Mercier, played by Jean Reno. When the team goes to Mercier’s house, they meet his assistant and wouldn’t you know it. Cross turns on the superhuman powers of deduction and realizes she is a drug addict. Cross says he will protect Mercier and his new business venture which is to make Detroit even more awesome that it apparently already is. Mercier can of course see the amazing wit, intelligence, and all around suaveness of the one known as Alex Cross, god among men.
But wait, Cross isn’t just an amazing cop. He is an unbelieveable husband as well. He takes his wife out to a very nice restaurant to celebrate her pregnancy and discuss whether or not he should take the job with the FBI. Cross gets a call from Monica and excuses himself from the table. But wait! The voice on the other end of the line is not Monica’s, but Picasso’s! Picasso sends Cross a picture of Monica who he tortured and killed. He makes a note to tell him that she couldn’t move but she could feel everything he did to her. Picasso then informs Cross that his wife is in his sights and before Cross can run to warn her, Picasso pulls the trigger. Cross’ wife dies in his arms and we get one of the saddest and best developed character moments in modern cinema. I cried with Cross at the loss of his wife. Cross and Thomas vow to make Picasso pay for the murders.
At the funeral for Cross’ wife, Picasso is sitting in a car at the cemetery and sketching, really showing his obsession with Cross. After the funeral, Cross comforts his daughter who is reeling from her mother’s death. This scene really demonstrates how Cross is a family man and how Perry can really elicit emotion from his audience and other actors around him. Cross speaks with his mother who tells him not to set out on the path of revenge because nothing good can come of it. Super-cop Alex Cross has no need of rules or regulations and goes out to track down and kill Picasso. Cross and Thomas break in to the police evidence locker to steal the evidence from the trial of the jailed woman from the beginning of the movie in hopes to get her uncle Daramus Holiday, played by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), to help him. In a wonderfully written scene, Cross displays his knowledge of the court system and appeals and forces the hand of Holiday to give him the name of the drug deal where Picasso gets his paralysis drug from.
Once Cross and Thomas have the name of the drug deal, they are able to infiltrate his place and subdue him. They use the video footage to get Picasso’s license plate and are able to track him. They discover that Mercier is attending a conference and fear that Picasso will strike then. Cross tells Captain Brookwell to clear the building and secure it. But unfortunately for them Picasso doesn’t need to be in the building. Picasso hatches an attack that rivals that of Hans Gruber from Die Hard. He fired a rocket out of a moving train and levels the building, causing Cross and Thomas to be blown back and many killed including Mercier and Captain Brookwell.
Cross and Thomas chase after Picasso and slam into his car to stop him. This leaves Thomas badly injured so super-cop Cross is forced to chase Picasso on his own. They end up in an abandoned building. Out of ammo, the two are forced to duke it out. This should be no problem from Picasso, seeing as he is an expert fighter. What Picasso did not count on was the deity Alex Cross. Cross handles Picasso easily, showing that he is an unbelieveable fighter in addition to being a cunning detective. Perry is unparalleled when it comes to being an action star. He stabs Picasso and allows him to fall to his death and end the nightmare.
Just when we think this is over, we find out that Mercier didn’t really die. He faked his own death at the conference and hired Picasso to perform the murders in order to embezzle money from his clients. Cross, of course, had this all figured out. Cross uses Mercier’s drug addicted assistant to frame Mercier for drug possession and trafficking. In Bali, where Mercier fled to, the punishment for these crimes is death. Cross demonstrated that he is a renegade cop who plays by his own rules. The movie ends with Cross returning to his family and restoring the peace and structure they enjoyed.
In conclusion, Alex Cross will stand above other action movies because of it’s amazing plot, it’s twists, it’s unparalleled action, and it’s heart. It is not only one of the best action movies of the last few years, but possibly one of the best of all time. Tyler Perry proves he can contend with the likes of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dwayne Johnson when it comes to action and acting. Alex Cross will stand the test of time and being a favorite for years to come. Every action movie after Alex Cross will borrow elements from it that made it so great.