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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Retro Review: Cradle 2 The Grave (2003)

Cradle 2 The Grave
Cast: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, Kelly Hu, Gabrielle Union, Mark Dacascos
Genre: Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $34 million 

Plot: A Jewel thief's daughter is kidnapped after he steals a collection of prized Black diamonds, which aren't all they seem

'Too Samey Action Flick That Almost Digs Its Own Grave'

Cradle 2 The Grave was the second of 2 U.S based movies starring Jet Li, the first being Romeo Must Die, which was directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, alongside the late singer, Alliyah and was produced by Joel Silver, who has churned out notable action movie hits in Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando from the 1980s. Cradle 2 The Grave was also the third martial arts-based stint of Bartkowiak and Silver, following on from Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds & with a premise that is all too familiar and similar to those movies. If there is one favour, it is that it doesn't star Steven Segal. 

DMX as Fait leads a gang of jewel thieves who include Gabrielle Union's, Daria and Anthony Anderson, Tommy in search of the stones when Mark Dacascos's villain kidnaps his daughter and forcing him to team up with Jet Li to get her back. 

The action and stuntwork in Cradle 2 The Grave is serviceable at best, but for the chase sequence on two wheels with DMX riding a quad bike and a motorbike rider, it is nothing that grand to be amazed about and on occasions, it looks exactly like every other action scene in an action B-movie. Action choreographer Corey Yuen has delivered far better in his earlier outings such as Yes Madam! and Lethal Lady. Executed in such a way that didn't blow my mind, and mind-blowing action it wasn't, as the frenzied and over-stylised editing took away from some of my enjoyment. It was for the most part deficient. I didn't like the sound effects when they launch a kick or a punch and the plot is weak and not very convincing. In fact, from the beginning, it makes little sense at first, but as the story unravels I didn't really care much for it. 

As much as I am disappointed with Jackie Chan's Western movies, at least with him he has a screen presence and personality to back up his fights; with Jet Li, the same unfortunately couldn't be said for him. He was just too serious, but I guess a moody and serious looking Jet Li is better than nothing, - and still he just wasn't able to do much to elevate this film and make it anymore better than it should have been. His showdown with B-movie action star, Mark Dacascos was not bad however and the Beijing-born battler still reigns in the fight stakes. That scene was marred by some headache-inducing editing as the camera switches from one scene to the next, cutting back & forth. As for Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold, Arnold appears to be less irritating and not as in-yer-face as I'd anticipated, but those two are so similar in terms of personality although, with Anderson, he is more loud and brash. But for her fight with Gabrielle Union, Kelly Hu does and practically says little in this film to warrant her casting. & her character stunk also. The villains are one-note, but utterly void of personality and their reason for having the diamonds/stones is beyond absurd. Union, on the other hand, is all right, but she is out of place in a film such as this. Her lap dance scene, however, exists as nothing more than fan service and feels shoehorned into the movie. The acting, on the whole, is sub-par at best.

The lacklustre, and at times, silly screenplay was penned by Channing Gibson, who also goes by the name of John Locke, who wrote for TV shows such as medical drama, St Elsewhere, as well as the disappointing Lethal Weapon 4. The storyline with the kidnapped daughter would have usually generated some emotional attachment or feelings; instead, I felt nothing, nor did it evoke empathy from me.

It seems like Cradle 2 The Grave existed as the harder, darker and edgier Rush Hour with Jet Li in place of Jackie Chan and DMX as the token black guy for Chris Tucker. The thing is that with Li and DMX, there is just not much in the way of a genuine onscreen buddy chemistry that they share. 

It's only a tad enjoyable than the terrible Exit Wounds, and still, it just wasn't good enough. Disposal and meagre script, lame antagonist characters and utterly undemanding plot, Cradle 2 The Grave barely hangs on, thanks to Jet Li. 

Final Verdict:

Although it did get released theatrically as a Hollywood big budget-type film, Cradle 2 The Grave is, by all accounts, a B-movie in its feel and tone and it is assaultive when it comes to the action sequences, leaving little opportunity to carve out a decent narrative when it attempts to do so. 

An undemanding action movie, I guess with this one, one has to get by the absurdity to fully enjoy it. As mentioned, I do prefer it over Exit Wounds; however, this is a film where Bartkowiak and in particular, Joel Silver should have approached it in a slightly less extravagant and overly zealous fashion. 

It's doable at most, and the film should count its lucky stars and Jet Li for that. 


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