Skip page navigation

Amanda Bell

| e-mail | twitter

Amanda Bell is a nerdy detail slinger of the book and movie variety with a background in philosophizing and legal mumbo jumbo.

The 25 Differences Between ‘Alex Cross’: Book and Movie

The film “Alex Cross” is a serious departure from the James Patterson book it’s loosely based on, “Cross.” In fact, there were so many differences between the two stories that a list of their similarities would be shorter, but here’s a run-through of the changes we noticed anyway. Do we even need to give you a spoiler alert?

1. The Setting
In the Book: Washington, D.C.
In the Movie: Detroit, Michigan
How Different Is It? Completely. The green lawns of the nation’s capitol are traded for a city that’s been wracked by debt and the fall of the automotive industry.
Good or Bad? Neutral. Other changes negated the significance of the locale for the most part.

2. Alex Cross
In the Book
: He is a widowed father of three who went from police detective and psychologist to Bureau investigator. Cross is thrust back into the D.C. police scene when a series of vicious rapes and homicides greatly resemble a crime spree long left unresolved which may have been connected to the murder of his own pregnant wife.
In the Movie: He is a detail-observant Detroit police officer slash psychologist who foils an assassination attempt and finds himself and his loved ones targeted by the hitman.
How Different Is It? Pretty significant. Movie Cross has not yet become an FBI agent, and no time passes between his wife’s demise and his cat and mouse game with the villain.
Good or Bad? Good. Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross has a thirst for vengeance in the film which is a bit more palatable, and his keener senses as an investigator and psychoanalyst carry the action forward.

3. The Villain
In the Book: The Butcher of Sligo, Michael Sullivan, is a handsome, well-paid hitman who spends his free time raping women and threatening them against reporting it with gory photos of his torture victims. His weapon of choice is a surgical scalpel, and his loyalties are few. He’s most often hired to do the mafia’s bidding, and his mental instability is seemingly the result of sexual and physical abuses by his father. He later has a family from whom he hides his secret lifestyle.
In the Movie: Picasso, a visibly crazy but intelligent gun for hire, uses a paralytic chemical agent to weaken but not deaden the nerves of his victims. He most often kills with a gun but is also technologically savvy and enjoys the sport of inflicting pain upon his victims and sketching their facial expressions with charcoal. He’s been hired to assassinate a French billionaire.
How Different Is It? Hugely different! Sullivan was an actual butcher’s son whose crimes were heinous and seemingly for sport. The movie’s villain — who only calls himself the Butcher of Sligo once during an MMA-style cage fight — is equally deranged but much more focused upon completing his assignment. Apart from exacting revenge upon Alex Cross and company for getting in his way, he kills few unmarked people.
Good or Bad? Good and bad. Matthew Fox’s lunacy in the role is a major centerpiece to the movie, but the book’s evil-doer is much more developed and shocking.

4. The Children
In the Book
: Alex has three children, Janelle, Damon and Ali. The first two are in diapers when his wife is killed, and the acquisition of the third is explained in another book altogether. Sullivan has three sons and a wife.
In the Movie: Alex has two preteen children with his late wife Maria. She was not far along enough in her pregnancy at the time of her murder for the third to survive her death. The villain, meanwhile, seems to have no family.
How Different Is It? Moderately so. In the book, Alex’s relationship with his youngest son Ali is a healing mechanism for him, but his affections for his live-in grandmother Nana Mama and his two children serve the same purpose onscreen.
Good or Bad? Neutral. The absence of the third child and the villain’s family is relatively unnoticeable with other alterations made to the plot.

5. The Mob/Crime Bosses
In the Book: The mob is responsible for what the Butcher has become and has kept him gainfully employed since his youth, but when Maggione Jr., the son of the mafia boss, ascends to power, he and Sullivan don’t see eye to eye and go to war with one another.
In the Movie: The mafia is not discussed in connection with his career, and while there is a crime syndicate involved, it’s definitely not La Cosa Nostra.
How Different Is It? Very! The presence of the mafia threat against Sullivan sends him scrambling all over the place to address it. This give Alex Cross some time (and even gun power at one point) to piece together clues.
Good or Bad? Probably good. The mob storyline in the book was lengthy and deep and would’ve made the movie much longer than the Frenchman crime circle storyline did.

6. Kayla, the Girlfriend
In the Book
: Twelve years after his wife’s death, Alex takes a doctor girlfriend who gets attacked.
In the Movie: Non-existent.
How Different Is It? 100% different.
Good or Bad? Fairly good. The Kayla book character was lovely and all, but she did little to service the motion of plot.

7. Jimmy ‘Hats’ Galati, the Sidekick
In the Book
: The Butcher’s most faithful buddy is fingered for killing Alex Cross’ wife and unwittingly aids in discovering the whereabouts of the Butcher’s family.
In the Movie: Picasso roams alone, which is probably for the best given his predilection for those awful barefoot running shoes.
How Different Is It? Absolutely different.
Good or Bad? Galati’s relevance the book is almost completely entangled with the mafia storyline, so it makes no difference in the movie.

Alex Cross8. Alex’s Partner
In the Book: John Sampson, his childhood friend who is also his former partner in the D.C. police.
In the Movie: Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), his childhood friend and current partner in the Detroit Police Department.
How Different Is It?: Eh, not that different.
Good or Bad?: Good. Since Alex has not yet joined the FBI in the movie version, his side-by-side efforts with Tommy are good fodder for action and some emotional moments. The name change wasn’t necessary, though.

9. Introduction of the Villain
In the Book: Michael Sullivan, the Butcher, and his partner attack a mob soldier in Baltimore for disrespecting the mob boss, Maggione.
In the Movie: Picasso, having received his lump sum to commit a major hit upon Fan Yau, enters a cage match to get her attention and savagely wrecks his competitor. He is invited back to her home and searched by her goons but keeps a gun concealed in his shoe which he uses to murder her guards before torturing her.
How Different Is It? Moderately. While the victim is different and not connected to the mafia, the baddie is still committing an ordered crime.
Good or Bad? Fair. The Butcher’s cleverness and unbalanced nature are put on full display right away. Since the mafia isn’t even in the film, the replacement victim is intriguing enough.

10. Car Product Placement
In the Book: Alex drives a 1974 Porsche and later replaces Maria’s old Toyota with a Mercedes-Benz R350. Sullivan has no real attachment to cars, but he does drive a Hummer with his family.
In the Movie: Picasso drives a Cadillac, and Tommy Kane drives a Chevy Super Sport.
How Different Is It? Cars are still prominently featured in the story, so it’s a slight change.
Good or Bad? Bad. Picasso’s love for his Caddy is a sloppy detail that makes him a little too easy to track, given his intelligence.

11. Maria and Alex
In the Book: They are madly in love and repeat cheesy platitudes to one another (“No one will ever love you like I do”) on a regular basis.
In the Movie: They are witty and modern with one another but still very loving. In place of high praise and endless phrase of adoration, they are jokey but considerate of one another.
How Different Is It? Noticeably so.
Good or Bad? Good. The movie couple is much more believable and sincere andway less annoying.

12. Maria’s Death
In the Book: Maria is shot right in front of him and dies in his arms. While Alex long suspects the Butcher, Michael Sullivan denies doing it, and Alex’s partner John Sampson later reveals it was Jimmy “Hats” Galati who did the deed.
In the Movie: Picasso snipes her from the roof of a nearby building as she sits down to eat; he’s taunting Alex on the phone at the same time, and later reveals that he was going to shoot Alex instead but Cross’ quick reaction to the threat turned the maniac’s sights on Maria.
How Different Is It? Extraordinarily. Book Alex didn’t quite know the identity of his wife’s murderer until the end of the story, while movie Alex knows for certain who pulled the trigger right away. Not to mention it’s a different killer altogether.
Good or Bad? Good. The uncertainty and confusion surrounding the book variation of the murder was distracting and left the case cold for far too long. The movie villain’s taunting makes Alex’s crazed search for him much more believable.

13. Nature of the Crime Spree
In the Book: Alex and company are investigating a series of brutal rapes and homicides in D.C.
In the Movie: Alex and his team are trying to protect an important series of marks from being reached by Picasso.
How Different Is It? Highly different. The M.O. of the killer is altered altogether, though he’s equally as crazy in both variations.
Good or Bad?: Acceptable. The torture and rape scenes were very excessive in the book and would’ve been unnecessary to the movie’s altered plot line.

14. Pop Pop and Daramus Holiday
In the Book: Non-existent.
In the Movie: Daramus Holiday (the marvelous Giancarlo Esposito) is a wealthy criminal who allows a young woman named Pop Pop to take the heat for him and serve time. Alex and his partner Tommy Kane are able to blackmail him into releasing information on the chemist supplying Picasso with the paralytic agent.
How Different Is It?: Completely.
Good or Bad?: Bad due to the distraction, but anything that gives Giancarlo Esposito screen time is good.

15. Monica Ashe
In the Book: Non-existent.
In the Movie: Monica (Rachel Nichols) is a young police officer who is romantically entangled with Alex Cross’ partner Tommy Kane. She joins them in a successful effort to stop Picasso from attacking a German target and is later tortured and killed. A photo of her brutal murder is the only one seen in the film.
How Different Is It?: Moderately.
Good or Bad?: Okay. Her relationship with Alex and Tommy makes her murder hit closer to home than the deaths caused by the Butcher in the book.

Alex Cross16. Alex and the Villain’s First Real Encounter
In the Book: The Butcher visits Alex’s home and, after toying with him, decides not to kill him in front of his children.
In the Movie: Alex, Tommy and Monica corner Picasso during his assassination attempt on the German mark. When a small explosion goes off, Picasso is able to make his escape.
How Different Is It?: Really different.
Good or Bad? Bad. Their first encounter in the book was much eerier and added complexity to the character of the killer.

17. The Killer’s Calling Card
In the Book: The Butcher uses a scalpel to torture his victims and commemorate his crimes with photos.
In the Movie: Picasso sketches out the faces of his victims in pain. He uses a photo only once to show Alex Cross his murder of colleague Monica Ashe.
How Different Is It?: Medium.
Good or Bad? Neutral. Since the nature of the villain’s crimes are so altered, the photos wouldn’t serve the same purpose in the film. The use of the charcoal drawings, which also contain clues, is a suitable replacement. However, it does seem more labor-intensive.

18. Fan Yau
In the Book: Non-existent.
In the Movie: Fan Yau is a rich member of the French crime boss Leon Mercier’s circle who is marked and gruesomely tortured and murdered by Picasso, who gleefully snips off Yau’s fingers one by one.
How Different Is It?: Very much so. In the book, there were crime underlings murdered to get to the boss, but it was personal and not professional.
Good or Bad? Good. The mob soldier who serves as the baddie’s first victim in the book is nameless and uninteresting. Better to see Fox go psycho yet again.

19. Erich Nunemacher
In the Book: Non-existent.
In the Movie: Erich is a wealthy German businessman who works for French crime boss Leon Mercier. A price has been put on his head, and his well-protected building is infiltrated by Picasso. He is protected by Alex and his partners, though, and is set up by his boss again later in the story.
How Different Is It? Big time. Again, in Patteron’s novel, petty criminals did the dirty deeds, and it wasn’t personal.
Good or Bad? So so. The character mostly served to prove how resourceful and savvy Picasso is at getting to his targets.

20. Leon Mercier
In the Book: Non-existent.
In the Movie: Leon Mercier (Jean Reno) is the leader of a criminal ring, and if Picasso manages to kill him, he’ll be taking home a cool $3 million. Mercier’s wealth and generosity toward the city’s various programs makes him worthy of protection by the police department, and while it appears Picasso has destroyed him near the end, he’s actually escaped to a foreign island with his pretty assistant. He’s later set up for drug smuggling by Alex and Tommy as revenge.
How Different Is It? Medium. Mercier essentially replaces Maggione the mob boss as the duplicitous leader of a targeted group.
Good or Bad?: Neither.

21. The Killer Gets Attacked
In the Book
: The mafia boss sends an attack force to kill the Butcher while he plays baseball with his sons. They are unsuccessful and set him on a course of revenge against the mob boss.
In the Movie: Tommy Kane shoots Picasso while the team foils his attack on the German. His arm is wounded, and he plots some bloody revenge.
How Different Is It?: Completely.
Good or Bad? Fine. This gives Picasso a motive to shift focus from his marks to the policemen and woman.

22. Cross and Partner Become Vigilantes
In the Book: Alex Cross and Sampson use questionable police tactics to camp outside of the Butcher’s house and confront him.
In the Movie: Alex and Tommy break off code to gather information about Picasso’s whereabouts.
How Different Is It?: Slightly.
Good or Bad? Bad. One minute they’re not cops, and the next they’ve got their HQ calling OnStar support to track Picasso’s car. The storyline gets a little muddled here.

23. The Killer Hijacks a Train
In the Book: Didn’t happen.
In the Movie: Picasso hijacks a train using fancy devices and shoots a missile at the highly protected locale of the French crime boss.
How Different Is It? Significant. The Butcher relies on his trusty scalpel and sneaky entry tactics, not high level weaponry and technology.
Good or Bad? Whatever. It’s just an entirely different storyline.

24. The Villain’s Death
In the Book: Alex and Sampson stake out the Butcher’s family’s home and find that they’re not the only enemies of his hanging around. Mob boss Maggione has sent a squad to attack the villain, but Sullivan razes through their ranks pretty efficiently. Alex himself shoots out a mob soldier who’s aiming for Sullivan’s nearby children. Once the mob men are eliminated, the butcher turns to Alex and Sampson. Michael Sullivan captures his own wife and threatens to shoot her if Alex does not drop his weapon, and he does. He then shoots Alex, and Sampson takes the Butcher out.
In the Movie: In a complicated car location scene, Alex and Tommy chase and eventually crash into Picasso’s car. Tommy is injured and left behind in the car while Alex Cross chases Picasso into an old car port. Alex and Picasso engage in a fist fight, and both nearly fall through the ceiling. Alex drops the baddie to his crushing death, and Tommy arrives just in time to rescue Alex from falling himself.
How Different Is It?: Fully.
Good or Bad?: Arguably good. Alex himself kills the villain instead of having his partner handle it. Also, he’s not very injured in the fight.

25. The End
In the Book: Alex, with the Butcher dead and the identity of his wife’s murderer discovered, considers moving away from D.C. for a quieter life doing psychology work.
In the Movie: Alex and Tommy plot Mercier’s arrest for drug smuggling, and Alex returns home to his family, who are preparing for a move to D.C. He is at peace, having now fully avenged his wife’s death. Tommy plans to follow him into the FBI.
How Different Is It?: As with nearly everything else about the movie, the difference is rather severe.
Good or Bad?: No opinion.

Over all, this movie gives new definition to the term “loose adaptation.” With changes to the location, timing, characters, plot, motives and results, it’s hardly a derivative work of the book at all. Whether those changes were good or bad, however, is another story entirely.


Categories: Features

Tags: Alex Cross, Giancarlo esposito, James patterson, Jean reno, Michael Fox, Tyler perry