Cradle 2 the Grave: Don't Get Too Excited
Phil Davetas
3/16/2003 9:29:56 PM

Beginning with a cool title sequence, Cradle 2 The Grave immediately tosses the viewer smack into the middle of a jewelry heist. While there’s a well-done story set-up, the first three quarters of the film restrains the action. When there is an action scene, however, it’s a good one—well-photographed and stunted. But don’t get too excited: There are a lot of problems with C2G if you dig action flicks. Problem #1: Jet Li is completely sterile. He doesn’t do anything but fight with a gang of kick-boxers, with lots of wire work and, at the end, a match with the big boss including the obligatory CGI death sequence. Problem #2: It feels like this is DMX’s story, with a goofy Chinese plot added so that they can work Jet Li into the movie. Problem #3: On top of all that, there’s a lame sci-fi twist in the end. Problem #4: And what’s funnier than having a would-be comic relief inserted into all the action set pieces? Having two would-be comic reliefs (Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson) who still think that humor is a white dude acting black, and a straight, black dude acting like he’s flaming up his gay genes.

The issue I have with Jet Li in American cinema is the same problem I have with Steven Segal. They are portrayed as supermen with no vulnerabilities. This takes all the suspense out of the story. DMX is an honorable thief who only robs drug dealers and gangsters, but then his daughter is taken hostage and he is forced into a dilemma. He doesn’t even contribute anything to the jewels he’s supposed to recover. Perhaps if Jet Li’s daughter were taken hostage instead, it would give him more to do. In Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li goes out of his way to help Bridget Fonda save her daughter from some drug kingpin/pimp. This movie gives his character more range and depth, propelling the story and also putting him in a position to lose—much like his HK flicks, Once Upon a Time in China and The Legend of Red Dragon.

Producer Joel Silver’s career is an odd one. He’s put together some legit action flicks like 48 Hours, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, The Matrix, and then he has epic duds like Romeo Must Die, Demolition Man, Ricochet and anything with hip-hop music. But this is just like anything else this season: It’s the ‘Release this film during Oscar season and maybe we’ll get lucky’ mentality. And you know a good movie isn’t released during the cinema drought (January – April). I guess we need a first-course before The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, X2, Terminator 3, Lord of the Rings: Farewell to the King…

Cradle 2 the Grave (2 ½ out of Four)
R, 2003, 101 min., Warner Bros Pictures.

Stars: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Marcus Dacascos, Gabrielle Union, Music by John Frizzel and Damon “Grease” Blackman

Written by John O’Brien and Channing Gibson, Produced by Joel Silver and Directed by Andrzej Bartowiak.


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