- Casting an out-of-drag Tyler Perry in a role previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, resulting in a precipitous drop in cabin pressure.
- Allowing Lost’s Matthew Fox to subtly suggest the derangement of a serial killer by bugging his eyes out like a Tex Avery character.
- Succeeding at making the most numbingly generic thriller of 2012.
Defender: Director Rob Cohen (The Fast And The Furious, Stealth, xXx)
Tone of commentary: Neutral. Cohen’s tone reflects the tone of his movie: He’s determined not to rattle any cages with provocative statements or tales of on-set derring-do, but to deliver the expected commentary goods as straightforwardly and competently as possible. He’s kind to his cast, offers some factoids about the various Detroit and Cleveland locations, and likes to get into the technical information about the special effects and stunt work, as well as the many different types of weapons that appear in the film. Beyond that, Cohen has a habit of explaining how different characters are feeling in every scene. So when Perry looks filled with impotent rage over the diabolical machinations of his adversary, Cohen is there to point out that this is the scene where Tyler Perry is filled with impotent rage over the diabolical machinations of his adversary.
What went wrong: The budget was only $23 million. That might seem like more than enough money to pull off the sort of meat-and-potatoes police procedural that appears on CBS nearly every night, but given the $167 million price tag of Cohen’s last film, The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, it’s downright austere. Cohen is vague about how much the low budget hampered him creatively—presumably, craft services spent weeks ladling through a giant vat of cabbage soup—but he did have to sub tax-friendly Cleveland for Detroit in some scenes and use his bank teller as an extra in another. Limited to a PG-13 rating, Cohen couldn’t be as sexy as he wanted to be, sending back cut after cut of a racy S&M sex scene until it met with the MPAA’s approval. (He vows to show the uncut version if people demand it. So Alex Cross fans: Get your petitions and placards in order.) The only indication of real trouble on the set involved a big fight scene between Perry and Fox. Both men were determined to do as many of their own stunts as possible; while the actors performed with body doubles most of the time, they spent enough time fake-fighting that Perry accidentally clocked Fox so hard in the face that he nearly passed out cold. “This was not a good moment on set,” Cohen says cryptically.
Comments on the cast: Critics may not have been convinced by Perry’s stiff performance, but Cohen’s praise is wildly effusive. Here’s his description of a scene where Perry learns that his wife is pregnant with their third child: “You jump off a cliff when you direct a film and you spread your wings and you go, ‘Lord, please give me an updraft.’ And when I got to this shot and saw the amount of emotions that Tyler has in reacting to this unexpected news, both trepidatious and cautious as well as loving and excited, I thought, ‘Boy did I make a good choice. This guy can really act.’” He also allowed Perry and veteran actress Cicely Tyson to help decorate the home their characters share in the movie in an African-American style, before quickly declaring Alex Cross to be “a post-racial movie.” The kudos continue with nods to Burns, his first choice to play Perry’s partner, and Fox, whose commitment to the role involved shedding 40 pounds and training in MMA, weapons, and scuba diving. When Fox makes his first appearance in the film, Cohen remarks excitedly: “And now the plot begins to dance.”
Inevitable dash of pretension: Whenever Fox’s character goes completely bonkers, Cohen turns to an old-fashioned camera effect where the image blurs, multiplies, and shakes. For this, he credits a Francis Bacon painting as inspiration. He also talks about a “beauty in decay” motif he and his cinematographer were trying to achieve by finding the graphically beautiful elements of run-down Detroit structures like a deserted Packard plant and the once-glorious Michigan State Theater, which now serves as a parking deck. He likens his locales to the Roman Coliseum, and talks about achieving “a new kind of urban aesthetic.”
Commentary in a nutshell: On why the movie ends 10 minutes after it normally would: “My intent is to always give the audience complete satisfaction.”