Once in a while, a movie comes along that is too entertainingly weird to let pass without comment. When that happens, The Huffington Post‘s Mike Ryan and I jump on GChat and then post the needlessly detailed, necessarily joke-filled results for your amusement. This time, we’re discussing ‘Alex Cross’ (Current Criticwire average: C-), the new film starring Tyler Perry (“Madea’s Witness Protection,” “Madea Goes to Jail,” “Madea’s Family Reunion”) as Detroit cop and criminal profiler
Madea’s Alex Cross. Based on the popular series of novels by James Patterson, and directed by “The Fast & the Furious”‘s Rob Cohen, “Alex Cross” boasts Perry’s first leading role in a film he didn’t direct, and Matthew Perry as a deranged serial killer with an impossibly diverse array of talents.
Here’s our conversation (and, as always in these sorts of Crosstalks, beware of SPOILERS below).
Matt Singer: Okay Mike, are you ready to get CROSS’d?
Mike Ryan: Good grief.
Matt: I’ll take that as a yes. Had you seen the Morgan Freeman Alex Cross movies? Because I had not.
Mike: Yes. But not in a long time.
Matt: Are they as strange as this one?
Mike: No. I mean, is any movie as strange as this one?
Matt: A very fair question. It’s certainly the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a while. I’m not even sure how aware they are of the weirdness. Part of me thinks Rob Cohen was cackling on the set while they were shooting some of this stuff. But then other scenes make me less sure.
Mike: I would guess he wasn’t. I mean, I really think Matthew Fox was supposed to be sinister.
Matt: How could a character that absurd be sinister, though?
Mike: Here’s what he reminded me of: It’s like the guy who shows up to a beer league softball game wearing metal spikes and eventually sends the opposing shortstop home after trying to break up a double play. Then everyone else is looking around thinking, “What the fuck, man?”
Matt: Yeah, I know where you’re coming from. Fox went all De Niro on this role: he lost 35 pounds, he got jacked, he didn’t eat anything solid for months. For the role of a villain in a Tyler Perry movie.
Mike: He is trying WAY too hard.
Matt: If this is what he does for a Tyler Perry movie, what would he do for something with a chance at an Oscar? Actually become a serial killer?
Mike: “So, wait, I’m not The Joker?”
Matt: You have to admit, though: his assassinations are amazing. Rube Goldberg would look at these plans and go, “Do they have to be this complicated?”
Mike: They’re complicated and they don’t work. At one point he swims up a water pipe that supplies water to an indoor office waterfall, in full scuba gear. But it stops the water pressure, so everyone knows he’s there immediately.
Matt: True, but the first one works. That one goes something like this:
1)Go to underground fight club.
2)Enter cage match.
3)Brutally beat a guy almost to death.
4)Attract the attention of a woman in the crowd who is sexually aroused by brutal MMA fighting.
5)Be invited back to her place for sex.
6)Torture and kill her.
Mike: I love that she was attracted to him when he broke another man’s arm. “Yes, he seems stable.”
Matt: “Although I am apparently so deeply concerned for my physical safety that I employ a team of round-the-clock bodyguards, by all means come back to my house with me, man who can clearly kill someone with his bare hands.”
Mike: You know, this is not a good movie for women. I mean, they all wind up brutally killed.
Matt: Pretty much.
Mike: I mean, Ed Burns… he’s fine.
Matt: You can’t kill Ed Burns, Mike. Many have tried, none have succeeded.
Mike: Yeah, he even survived “Saving Private Ryan.” High mortality rate in that one.
Matt: Matthew Fox’s character is called Picasso because he leaves drawings on his victims’ bodies. What do you think Picasso would do if he knew he was being associated with a guy who was a serial killer who made these hideous charcoal drawings that also work like Mad Magazine Fold-Ins?
Mike: That was one of my favorite parts: when Alex Cross folded the drawing to form two initials. And then Matthew Fox taunted him later for figuring out such an easy clue. I mean, unless you’re reading Mad, who would ever do that?
Matt: Maybe Alex Cross was a big Mad fan as a kid.
Mike: I feel that we should be folding all Picasso paintings now, just in case. I mean, I thought Alex Cross was a genius for folding the drawing. I would never have thought to do that. Can we talk about John C. McGinley’s character?
Mike: I felt like he had some confidence issues that we weren’t privy to.
Mike: He’s barely in the movie, but he shows up as the police chief just long enough to whine that he’s never in the loop.
Matt: He also seems like he’s pretending to be a cop, or spoofing the image of the gruff commanding officer. There was something off about him. I half expected him to be in league with Picasso. “Here is my associate: Rembrandt!“
Mike: There’s something off about everyone in this movie. There’s also a lot of odd dialogue. At the beginning, Alex is concerned because of the relationship between two of the investigators on his team, Tommy (Edward Burns) and Monica (Rachel Nichols). And he tells Tommy that one of them will need to leave the team because it’s too dangerous. Then, immediately after, Alex announces that he’s taking a job in DC.
Matt: Exactly! That was so bizarre. Here’s one question I had: we establish that Matthew Fox is like a super badass MMA fighter. So how, at the end of the movie, does Tyler Perry hang with him in a fistfight? Shouldn’t Alex Cross get the Cross crossed out of him there?
Mike: Well, Picasso doesn’t like being punched in the face. Maybe that’s his weakness.
Matt: “Punches in the face! My only weakness!” Wait, but I thought punching him in the face makes him stronger? In the MMA fight when he gets punched in the face he, like, Hulks up.
Mike: It certainly makes him mad.
Matt: At the end, it seems to have no effect one way or the other.
Mike: I might have more in common with Picasso than I thought. I don’t like being punched in the face either. That final fight scene between Cross and Picasso was so weird.
Matt: Based on the evidence onscreen, I’m pretty sure it was shot in the middle of an earthquake. The camera wouldn’t stop shaking!
Mike: One minute they are wrestling around on the floor, the next they are hanging from the ceiling.
Matt: Well, it’s the floor that is also a ceiling.
Mike: I know. I got CROSS’d up while watching. I also loved the three, middle of the day, elevated train bullies who start a fight with Picasso as he’s on his way to kill someone. Boy, they picked the wrong guy to pick on. They call him “panty man.”
Matt: Without even looking to see if he’s wearing panties! “Would a panty man know how to hack into a subway car via a supply closet and then shoot a rocket out an open door as the train drives by in order to kill a guy hundreds of yards away?” That’s what he should have said in response.
Mike: Instead, he shoots them.
Matt: This is why he’s the Picasso… OF MURDER!!! (AND SCUBA DIVING IN BUILDINGS!!)
Mike: OK, on set, do you think Matthew Fox is thinking, “I am going to win an Oscar.”
Matt: It’s the only explanation for his deranged commitment to this nonsense.
Mike: It makes no sense! Like, this really should have been a paycheck, throwaway role.
Matt: Maybe he thought “Y’know Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for Hannibal Lecter. This is my Hannibal Lecter.” But “Silence of the Lambs” was directed by Jonathan Demme. “Alex Cross” was directed by Rob Cohen.
Mike: I’d bet money that before Fox did his first scene, he muttered the words out loud to himself, “Rest in peace, Dr. Jack Shephard.” Oh, one other thing: didn’t Alex and Tommy breaking into the evidence room in order to blackmail a crime boss into leading them to Picasso seem like a bit much?
Matt: Well this gets to a question I had: Is Alex Cross a good cop or a terrible cop?
Mike: I think he’s a terrible cop. I get the feeling a lot of the compliments that he receives from other characters, praising his detective work, are supposed to be ironic. “Here comes ‘Gandalf.'”
Matt: I mean Cross loves to spout off about what killers are thinking, he’s got a psychology degree, he’s being recruited by the FBI. But he totally misinterprets Picasso’s motives and gets his wife killed. A legitimately good cop doesn’t do that.
Mike: Like, he steals from the evidence room — taking a page from Picasso by making that way more elaborate than it needed to be. And then he tells Gus from “Breaking Bad” that he’s not acting as a cop. But he still calls in license plate numbers.
Matt: Also: why in the hell when Matthew Fox blows up Jean Reno’s character did they show bodies flying through the air, on fire, screaming “AAAAAAIIIEEEEEE!” like a Roger Moore James Bond movie?
Mike: That was crazy. Keep in mind, this is a PG-13 movie.
Matt: That shocked me. This is a movie about a killer who blows people up and cuts off a woman’s head and cuts off another woman’s fingers and kills a third pregnant woman. PG-13!!!
Mike: Right. And you didn’t even mention that someone is teased by being called “panty man.” PG-13, I think not. One last thing: When Picasso gets to the woman’s house that he’s going to torture, he sees a statue. I always hate in movies when someone sees a statue and says, “Oh, that’s Guan Yu, the god of war.” How do people know these things?
Matt: Well Picasso knows it because he knows everything. He’s an MMA fighting, scuba diving, computer hacking, subway hijacking master assassin. He’s not going to know Guan Yu, the god of war? C’mon. That’s the first thing you learn in MMA fighting, scuba diving, computer hacking, subway hijacking master assassin school.
Mike: OK, that’s fair. You know my least favorite part? When Tyler Perry and Ed Burns are arguing over who has to pick up Picasso’s first victim’s severed fingers. It was supposed to be funny, but it made me squirm.
Matt: Can’t two partners enjoy a little joshing over some severed fingers? If they can’t joke about that, what can they joke about? But you’re right; the tone of this movie is bizarre. They joke about a woman’s severed fingers, then Alex’s wife and Monica get killed and it’s ten minutes of funerals and mourning scenes. Which is it? Is death hilarious or is it soul-crushing?
Mike: Can’t have your cake and eat it, too, fellas.
Matt: Because Picasso would bake the cake, and then poison the cake with a special enzyme that paralyzes you but makes you feel everything.
Mike: Speaking of which, where was Monica’s funeral? Maybe Ed Burns decided it wasn’t “real” after all.
Matt: Yeah, it’s weird how both of them have a reason for revenge — but really only one of them seems particularly upset. Apparently Tommy’s feelings weren’t all that strong. Maybe when Tommy told Monica they couldn’t be together in public because Cross couldn’t know, that was a lie! He just didn’t want to commit!
Mike: “You were right, Alex. She’s dead and I don’t care. Wasn’t true love after all.”
Matt: Indeed. Sounds like he got double CROSS’d, Mike.
Mike: I can’t believe Ed Burns wasn’t even CROSS about the death of his girlfriend.
Matt: You did it.