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37 Things We Learned From the ‘Alex Cross’ Commentary

By  · Published on January 31st, 2013

Alex Cross is not a good movie.

There’s no singular reason as to why that is, but you can take your pick from the messy script to the casting of Tyler Perry in the title role as a police detective previously played by Morgan Freeman. Director Rob Cohen sat down to record a commentary for the Blu-ray/DVD which hits shelves next week, and he speaks highly of his film, his cast and crew while detailing the making of the film. He makes it very clear that he’d like the series to continue too, so tell everyone you know to buy a copy.

Keep reading to see what I heard with this week’s Alex Cross Commentary Commentary…

Alex Cross (2012)

Commentator: Rob Cohen (director)

1. Cohen was asked to read the script by the production company, QED, so he read it. The idea of casting Tyler Perry in the lead role was his alone.

2. The opening foot chase was filmed in the long-abandoned Packard car factory. Cohen views buildings like this as the American equivalent of Rome’s ruins.

3. Cohen thinks Perry’s casting here was daring and he feels the actor follows Morgan Freeman with “a new interpretation, a new vitality, a younger man, a bigger man, a more physical action hero.”

4. The scene where Cross learns his wife is pregnant is the moment Cohen knew he had cast the lead correctly. He “saw the amount of emotions that Tyler has in reacting” to the news, and knew he was right. So essentially this was the scene where Cohen realized his lead actor could act.

5. He wanted to introduce the villain, Picasso (Matthew Fox), in a physical but unexpected way. “The idea of introducing him in a Mixed Martial Arts forum… I thought was a nice curve.” The scene is filmed in an abandoned church that they actually paid a guy on the street to break into while location scouting.

6. “Fox did all of his own stunt work.” Cohen says this during the MMA fight with no qualifiers, but I assume he’s referring strictly to the fight.

7. Cohen was “skirting the line” with the scene where Picasso seduces and kills the wealthy woman as “the sequence has R-movie written all over it.” It took many passes to get through the MPAA and “was greatly reduced.” He says fans can get a director’s cut if we “demand it at video stores and Netflix.”

8. He references The Serpent & the Rainbow, a Wes Craven film that he produced, in regard to the zombie powder used to control victims. It was apparently refined into an anesthetic, and it’s used as Picasso’s drug of choice here.

9. The post-sex scene between Ed Burns and Rachel Nichols is a “reverse homage” to In the Line of Fire. Obviously.

10. Burns was the second to commit to the film after Perry which pleased Cohen as he could believe the two had a long history as friends.

11. Cohen sees this as a prequel to restart the franchise. “God willing if there is a sequel it will take place in Washington D.C. and not in Detroit.”

12. During pre-production Cohen and Fox emailed each other quite a bit to discuss Picasso. Cohen described the killer to him as having zero fat on his body and as being a “surgeon who cuts away necrotic tissue.”

13. The film was made for $23 million.

14. Cohen views product placement as a necessity for films on a budget and is happy to give Bulgari a shout out for the loan of their fabulous $250k necklace.

15. Fox has intense claustrophobia and had a “real gulp moment” when he discovered Picasso has to swim through a narrow, water-filled pipe for several yards. Cohen prepared him for the scene by laying down a cardboard tube, roughly the same size as the pipe, and having Fox crawl though it.

16. The Chase Bank sign glimpsed during the Cross’ first encounter with Picasso was apparently an accident. The Chase Bank commercials on Cohen’s resume are coincidental.

17. They faked a real cauterizing pen in action by holding incense below frame.

18. Cohen’s neighbor visited Detroit during the shoot so the director put him in a blazer and cast him as a background detective. “So if you visit me on the set you might also get your SAG card.”

19. The mansion used in the scene where Cross and his team visit the targeted company’s owner is in Akron, OH, and is actually a museum. It once belonged to the founder of Goodyear Tires and is also where Alcoholics Anonymous was born many years prior.

20. Jean Reno’s first appearance prompts accolades from Cohen, “an amazing actor, a man of I don’t know how many films this man has done, over a hundred.” For the record, Reno has 82 acting credits on IMDB, and at least ten of them are for shorts or TV series. But yes, he’s in a lot of stuff.

21. The film was shot “for tax-rebate reasons” in both Cleveland and Detroit.

22. Cohen has been married four times. He chuckles at the mention of it, but soon follows it with the introduction of his wife Barbara onscreen (“We’ve been married six years, we have triplets…”) as a restaurant hostess.

23. The scene where Cross’ wife is killed was kept out of the trailers “because it would impact the effect of the scene.” This is true, and it’s by far the best scene in the entire film.

24. Cohen still chokes up watching and thinking of the scene where Cross comforts his daughter at the wake. You can’t hear it in his voice, but he seems pretty sincere.

25. The scene where Picasso looks directly into the camera and says “you wouldn’t be feeling any pain at all” made Fox very uncomfortable, but Cohen insisted believing it would slam the point home to the audience.

26. Perry did his own wire work during the police station heist “because he was embarking on a career as a dramatic action actor, I wanted him to understand the techniques and feel what they took. And then in the future he could choose to stunt man or not to stunt man.”

27. It was a dream of Cohen’s to work with Giancarlo Esposito because “you just can’t get enough of Giancarlo Esposito in real life.”

28. The big guy who plays Daramus Holiday’s silent bodyguard is the Chase Bank teller who helped Cohen open a checking account in Cleveland. Again with the Chase Bank.

29. The car that Cross and Holiday chat inside of is one of the world’s most expensive, a $1 million+ 1931 Cadillac, and is housed in the GM Heritage Museum. Michael Bay has also filmed there.

30. The in-car scenes were done with the car, actors and cameras secured on a trailer. “It wasn’t like Fast & the Furious. I did not need to go 100 miler per hour with an actor in the car, and to make it look faster I added a certain amount of shake.”

31. An extended sewer sequence was cut from earlier in the film because a sink hole dropped out of the roadbed where filming was set to take place. The time lost meant the scene had to be cut.

32. Cleveland S.W.A.T. and bomb squad officers play the Detroit S.W.A.T. and bomb squad officers.

33. The finale takes place in the Michigan Theater which is now used primarily as a parking garage. They found old film on the floor of the projection booth so Cohen included a glimpse of it as commentary on the vanishing future of physical film. “This film was shot on film, real film, and I think it shows because I don’t think the color range that we would have been able to get out of HD would have matched this.”

34. Cohen insisted that the final fight be filmed with Perry fighting Fox’s stunt double and Fox fighting Perry’s stunt double. This was done to get some great stunt work but also because Perry accidentally clocked Fox during a scene together.

35. I’ve always wondered how they do impact shots when a body falls from above and slams onto a car roof or hood, and Cohen explains it here. It’s a combination of a descender cable to control the stuntman’s fall and pneumatic rams to suck in the car’s hood timed with his impact. Pretty cool.

36. Reno’s take-down scene was filmed in Bali at Cohen’s own home. It’s a beautiful place. Thanks DragonHeart!

37. Cohen traded budget for creative control here. “It was a very creative and wonderful experience… The Mummy was like $167 million and this was 23… and I had to solve problems in a very different way. We tried to give you a full cinematic experience, at least that was my sincerest hope.”

Best in Commentary

“I let Tyler and Cicily Tyson do a lot of the interior decorating so that it had the right African American flavor, but I consider this a post-racial movie in the era of our fantastic president Barack Obama. Hope you vote for him. Or have voted for him. I hope he’s still the president when this comes out.”

“Here he is dealing with a beautiful young Eurasian woman played by Stephanie Jacobsen, a very un-Asian name, but she is half Asian.”

“Tyler is 6’6” and about 230lbs. Ed Burns, who’s a very big man, I mean 6’2" and built like a tight end. What I wanted to show, for the first time I think you understand how big Tyler Perry really is and he is a very very big, strong man. Powerfully built.”

“Michigan used to be great, but they got a Republican governor and he decided the film industry didn’t need any help consequently crippling a very wonderful new industry in Detroit.”

“When you’re making a movie you’re just daring the movie gods to screw you in any possible way they can.”

Final Thoughts

Alex Cross remains a terrible movie, but Rob Cohen’s commentary is pretty entertaining. It’s a mix of plot recap and anecdotes, and while he’s not a naturally exciting speaker he manages more than a few interesting bits about the movie and filmmaking in general.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.