Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: "Cradle 2 the Grave" Not Completely Lifeless

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 28 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Andrzej Bartkowiak
WRITERS: John O’Brien and Channing Gibson; from a story by John O’Brien
PRODUCER: Joel Silver
EDITOR: Derek G. Brechin
COMPOSERS: Damon “Grease” Blackman and John Frizzell


Starring: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Mark Dacascos, Gabrielle Union, Daniel Dae Kim, and Chi McBride (uncredited)

The subject of this movie review is Cradle 2 the Grave, a 2003 action film. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the film stars legendary action star, Jet Li, and rapper DMX.

Producer Joel Silver brings us another martial artist/rap star “buddy” movie in the tradition of his hit, Exit Wounds. This time Exit Wounds star DMX joins legendary Far East action star Jet Li in Cradle to the Grave. After I watching this movie, I couldn’t figure out the reason for the title, but the name sounds rough and tough, just what you want in your “chop socky-hip hop” movie. No doubt that this is trash, but fun trash, especially if you’re feeling really tolerant; not as good as Exit Wounds, but almost worth the price of admission if you like Li and/or DMX. And I had been waiting for this for a long time.

Fait (DMX) leads a crew of high-tech urban thieves who stumble onto a bag of mysterious black jewels during their heist of a diamond exchange. The diamonds’ owner, the vicious and murderous Ling (Mark Decascos), kidnaps Fait’s daughter and holds her as ransom for the jewels’ return. Fait gets a monkey wrench in his works when another crew steals the diamonds from one of Fait’s bumbling associates (Tom Arnold). Fait and his crew forge an alliance with a Taiwanese intelligence officer, Su (Jet Li), to rescue his child and retrieve the precious black diamonds, which hold a deadly and powerful secret.

Director Andrzej Bartkowiak’s film is clunky and disjointed, but Bartkowiak (who has directed three of Li’s American films) knows that he only has to string together a few “character moments” between scenes with the only important elements of the film: DMX’s grimace and Li’s extended martial arts free-for-alls. Li actually has an extended battle at an underground fight arena that at times defies the imagination and at other times is so wacky that it earns a load of belly laughs. Because the writers gave DMX’s character a child, we actually get a few smiles from the normally scowling star during precious scenes of him “parenting.”

The supporting cast mostly serves as relief from the grim story. Most of the time, Cradle 2 the Grave is a pretty raw cartoon, and it plays rough with its characters. However, Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson, co-stars in Exit Wounds, return to add much needed comic relief. In fact, Arnold never seems so comfortable in a film role as he does when he’s rollin’ with the homeys. I think he’s added life to his career legs the way John Lithgow did in the early 1990’s by taking a few villainous roles.

I won’t lie to you. This isn’t a good movie, but it can be very entertaining most of the time. You just have to outlast some “dramatic” moments to get to the action, suspense, and thrills. Sometimes, I became very impatient waiting out a few dull minutes just to get to the bloodshed; honestly, there’s no other reason to see this junk other than for the junk: car chases, titillation, shootouts, corrupt cops, thugs, explosions, and Jet Li’s electric hands and feet.

So when’s the next Silver Pictures’ rap-fu joint coming out? DMX and Jackie Chan, perhaps?

4 of 10


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