This is a guest piece by film buff Alexander Bailey…
The moment I heard about the Jesse Stone movie series, I was instantly reminded of the Alex Cross book and movie series. I did what any self-respecting movie lover would do and fired up Netflix to compare them.
The first film in the Stone series is Stone Cold (2005) and the first Cross film is the self-titled Alex Cross (2012). The two have an almost eerily similar premise: A bad to the bone, take nothing from nobody, super detective fights a vicious serial killer who makes the hunt personal. The stories take you through the cat and mouse game of police officers who have both experienced great personal loss as part of catching infamous criminals who had evaded the rest of the police force.
The similarities between these two movies are so comprehensive that writing about the differences is going to be a challenge. Let’s start with their family lives. Both of the detectives were married, and both of them lost their wives. Stone lost his to divorce and Cross lost his wife to a killer he was pursuing. More similarities unfold during the rising action of Stone Cold, when Stone’s girlfriend at the time is murdered. Just like in the Cross movies, the murder was vengeful, done by a killer he was pursuing.
Because both killers murdered someone close to the detectives, these movies revolve around revenge. In fact, towards the end of the films, both detectives are more focused on exacting their personal revenge than catching the bad guy for eventual justice and imprisonment. This comes as no surprise because in both movies the serial killers taunted the detectives. Neither film, however, revealed why the criminals had a personal grudge against Cross / Stone.
The plot line of the two films unfolds identically too. The killers are revealed to the audience within the first 15 minutes and both stories focus on why the killers are doing what they’re doing instead of the traditional detective trope of identifying the criminal. This is very different from how the Alex Cross books are laid out because they usually focus on who the killer actually is. Neither movie had much mystery to them and I’d go so far as to say that Stone Cold in particular was rather predictable.
Both Alex Cross and Jesse Stone are considered the best detectives in their departments. Stone was a small time cop who learned his skills from living in the big city. People kept telling hime that he was too good of a detective to be where he was. Cross was in a similar position too, so good at doing his job that at one point his partner complains about him always being right. In fact, Cross contemplates leaving the police department to join the FBI where he could further hone his skills. Both of these police officers were portrayed as “super cops”.
The most notable difference between these two films is that Stone Cold focused more on the interpersonal drama while the Alex Cross movies are far more action packed, with a tension-filled cat and mouse chase.
Additionally, there was a big, expected twist at the end of Alex Cross, that wasn’t part of the story resolution of the Stone film. Unfortunately I think the lack of suspense and action really took away from Stone Cold, leaving it less engaging and less entertaining than the Cross film.
Alex Cross is a family man with a wife, kids, and a perfect home. He’s good at his job and being offered a promotion. By contrast, Stone is a divorced alcoholic. His previous job was a cop in a big city, but he left because of his drinking problems. In fact, he was hired because he showed up drunk to his interview and his boss thought he’d be an easy person to manipulate. Stone also sleeps around with various women and is more of a loner than a family man. He also displays unethical and illegal behavior as a cop when he let the victim’s father beat up the assailant.
After watching both movies, my initial suspicions were confirmed: they are far more similar than they are different. While there were a couple of obvious differences, the plots are remarkably similar and both the protagonists and antagonists have fare more similarities than differences.
All told, I think Alex Cross was a better movie. It had a better plot line, a twist ending, and held my attention during the entire film as the tension kept increasing. I found Stone Cold to be a rather bland drama with a fairly predictable ending. The Alex Cross film had much higher production values because Stone Cold was a Made for TV movie, but regardless, I’m still going to recommend Alex Cross over Stone Cold.