BY JENNIFER CHIEN
I’m willing to suspend disbelief for some action movies, but there has to be a limit. Cradle 2 the Grave passed that limit repeatedly.
Cradle 2 the Grave is strictly an action movie for martial arts or DMX fans looking for cheap thrills. The movie’s logic is appallingly lacking, which wouldn’t be that much of a problem if the action made up for it. But the action in the movie is generally choppy and sporadic, and just isn’t exciting enough to make up for the stereotypes and cheesy dialogue that pervade the film.
If you’re really interested in the plotline, then bear with me through this next paragraph. The movie begins with Tony Fait (DMX) and his crew of jewel thieves in the middle of a heist to steal jewels from a secure, bank-like jewelry exchange, including some mysterious black diamonds. After successfully escaping with the diamonds, they are confronted by the mysterious Su (Jet Li), who promptly kicks one gang member’s ass without breaking a sweat or even taking his hand out of his pocket. Apparently Su is after the black diamonds. Fait then finds out that his boss has been killed, the mysterious and sinister owner Ling (Mark Dacascos, Mani from Brotherhood of the Wolf) of the black diamonds has kidnapped Fait’s cute eight-year-old daughter to get the black diamonds back, and in the meantime, the diamonds have been stolen by another criminal gang. The black diamonds turn out to be not diamonds at all, but a secret weapon developed by the Taiwanese government that is some sort of stable and condensed plutonium which Ling, a criminal arms dealer, wants to sell to the highest bidder.
At this point, you realize it isn’t that important to follow the plot. There’s too much confusion and superficial mystery to bother. The main point of the movie is to skip along from one action scene to another. There’s a nice chase scene with motorcycles flying across rooftops. The plot improbably manages to put Su in the middle of an underground fighting competition, where he gets to take on over 20 big guys at once, presumably in the quest to find out who has the black diamonds. There’s a brief fight scene between Gabrielle Union (one of DMX’s crew of thieves) and Kelly Hu (henchwoman for Dacascos), last seen in The Scorpion King and soon to appear in the X-Men sequel. Then there are the cool gadgets, loads of attitude from DMX and Li, and a noisy ending complete with exploding helicopters, tanks and triple the action with three simultaneous fight scenes.
There are also several funny bits. Anthony Anderson (from Kangaroo Jack) is occasionally funny as the comic sidekick in DMX’s crew. And surprisingly, Tom Arnold is amusing as one of the lone white guys in the movie — making wiseass cracks, bumbling around in a tank and providing needed comic relief.
I must admit, my main motivation was to watch Jet Li, who turns out to be a Taiwanese intelligence agent, and Mark Dacascos, who conveniently is an ex-Taiwanese intelligence agent who betrayed Li (even though he does not look Chinese at all), fight each other like mad. The one brief fight between the two at the end of the movie is a huge disappointment. It’s short, it’s preposterous, and it’s constantly cut into with other shots that ruin the pace of the action. Both Li and Dacascos are international martial arts superstars who can actually fight. That’s why it’s such a letdown. You would think any smart director would like them to go crazy on each other — but the director (Andrzej Barkowiak, of Exit Wounds and Romeo Must Die) feels the need to chop this scene up, ruining any visceral or emotional appeal (such that a stereotypical action movie could have).
Crade 2 the Grave still offers a decent amount of good action. Just don’t go in expecting too much.