Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
Once again with Cradle 2 the Grave, Hollywood has reminded us of the magic of the buddy film with the incorrigible rapscallion rapper DMX teamed up with stoic kung fu master Jet Li. Oh wait, did I saw buddy comedy, because what I meant to say was, “pretty mediocre movie.”
DMX plays master jewel thief Tony Fait. He and his covert team (which includes one of the stars of Kangaroo Jack, take that for what you will) have been hired to steal priceless black diamonds. It appears others are also after these lucrative diamonds including Su (Li), Taiwanese cop, and some international arms dealers that steal Fait’s daughter. Only really bad guys steal kids. Fait and Su form an unlikely team to recover his daughter and the black diamonds, which are revealed as powerful high-grade plutonium. And you better believe that their investigation has them stop by a strip club at least once.
Let’s just say that acting is not the strong suit of Li or DMX. The rapper (whose real name is the non-threatening “Earl”) scowls a lot, as if he’s thinking some extra muscle will do the acting for him. Li seems sleepy or drugged, but he’s best when the fists are flying and his conversation is kept to a minimum.
The plot to Cradle 2 the Grave is besides the point. The movie tries to make DMX seem like the good kind of jewel thief, you know, the one you’d like living next door. He won’t allow guns, he steals Robin Hood-style from drug dealers, and he loves his little tyke. He even reforms a prostitute (Gabrielle Union). But if DMX is such the master jewel thief then wouldn’t he know that black diamonds aren’t real?
Li is a furious fighter, and his previous film Kiss of the Dragon proved to me that he could utilize chopsticks and pool balls as lethal weaponry. But with Cradle 2 the Grave he goes one step further, and one step closer to the bizarre world of make believe, by using, of all things, dwarves and lobsters as deadly weapons. What’s next Jet Li? Throwing cancer patients and school children?
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak has previously directed bombs Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds, another DMX-teams-with-martial-artist vehicle. After Cradle 2 the Grave I say, three strikes and you’re out as a director. Yes, acting and story are not as important in an action film as most genres, however, Bartkowiak directs the action scenes like he’s caught in them. The camera will sway around like it’s ducking a punch and too often focus tightly on people and make rapid-fire cuts. You can’t enjoy the action because Bartkowiak won’t let you see what’s going on. The film’s climax is like a gigantic end stage in a video game.
Cradle 2 the Grave is so poor that the best thing about is Tom Arnold. Did you ever think you’d hear that? Cradle 2 the Grave wastes just about every reason for its own existence. This is the kind of movie someone who hates humanity would make. This is the kind of movie a zombie Hitler would have made. And I hear some of you saying, “But wait, there’s no way xenophobic Hitler would cast an African-American rapper and a Chinese martial artist in his movie.” Oh, that’s exactly what zombie Hitler would want you to think. Do you see how subversive it is now, do you?
Nate’s Grade: C-