|Cradle 2 the Grave
2003 - R - 101 Mins.
|Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
|Producer: Joel Silver
|Written By: John O'Brien, Channing Gibson
|Starring: Jet Li, DMX, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, Kelly Hu, Mark Dacoscos, Drag-On, Chi McBride
|Review by: Carl Langley
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak works like the Coen brothers when it comes to repeatedly casting the same faces in each of his films. Sad to say, Bartkowiak is not even half the director Joel and Ethan are. As a cinematographer-turned-director, Bartkowiak frequently casts DMX, Jet Li, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, and Drag-on, all whom appear in his latest film Cradle 2 the Grave. Needless to say, all of Bartkowiak’s films, which include Romeo Must Die and the miserable Steven Seagal film Exit Wounds, possess the similar ghetto/martial arts atmospheric mix.
Cradle 2 the Grave starts out promising, but expectantly enters the same recycled action zone Bartkowiak’s previous films have embarked into. Tony Fait (DMX) is a crew leader of a diamond heist, which takes place inside a fancy complex. The gang includes Tommy (Anthony Anderson), the wisecracking, exuberant driver; Daria (Gabrielle Union), who is thrown in for seductive reasons; and Miles (Drag-On, who is a brother from Ruff Ryders), the right hand man of Tony.
Their main objective is to pilfer rare black diamonds, but every other valuable jewel locked away is theirs for keepsake. In midst of the robbery, Tony receives a phone call from Su (Jet Li), who informs him he has called the police and he desires the black diamonds as well. The crew round up their purloined belongings and escape, yet Tony is tracked down, at first by Su, and then by Su’s nemesis Ling (Mark Dacascos of Brotherhood of the Wolf fame) and his venomed accomplice, Sona (Kelly Hu).
Turns out that Su is working for the Taiwanese police and the diamonds belong to his country. He is trying to recover and destroy the black diamonds because he explains “those diamonds are not what you think they are.” The diamonds can be used as a superweapon that can destroy an area far bigger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Ling has an absolute zeal for getting his hands on those diamonds and selling them on the market for millions of dollars. So he gives Tony a little motivation to relinquish the diamonds by kidnapping his daughter. Tony and Su team up to kick some tail, put everything back into order, restore peace, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Cradle 2 the Grave has its whimsical moments, due largely to Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold, who plays the black market dealer that can provide and satisfy any need. Anderson has scene worth a few chuckles when he is told to seduce a security guard after Daria fails because she discovers he is a homosexual. But what does it tell you when we have to laugh at homosexual jokes in this type of film? Anderson and Arnold, in what almost seems ad-lib (and maybe it was), have a hilarious scene during the end credits, in which they converse who would be cast in their roles if their action was made into a movie. The light humor compensates for the film being a total malfunction.
DMX opened eyes with his lead performance in Belly, another worthless montage about selling drugs in a local neighborhood. Eschewing these moronic mishaps as long as possible is an important objective of mine as a film critic, but it seems a torrent of inept films are being budgeted. A DMX, Aaliyah, or Ja Rule film is bound to cross the path of my eyes at one point or another. After viewing a brief cameo in Romeo Must Die and an awful turn in Exit Wounds, my efforts to interpret DMX’s performance in Cradle 2 the Grave were unnecessary. Then I noticed a charismatic execution in his acting, especially the scenes with his ill-fated daughter, which made me realize DMX is a fairly good actor working with poorly written scripts. Do not be expecting him to pop up in Pride and Prejudice anytime soon though.
John O’Brien and Channing Gibson wrote the deficient screenplay, unaware of their hazardous mistakes and foolishness. DMX and Jet Li illogically break in to clubs and visit criminals (Chi McBride) in jail, based on their suspicions as to where the diamonds could be. Jet Li and Tom Arnold enter an illegal fighting club in search for the man who knocked Arnold out and took the diamonds, which only was a stand-in so Li could duke it out with real-life Ultimate Fighting Champions Randy "The Natural" Coture, Tito Ortiz, and Chick Liddell. Every corresponding film of this nature will always be stale material, and until Bartkowiak comes up with fresh matter, his films can never be considered entertainment by my standards.