(PaPa, H, FR, C, B, Ho, LLL, VVV, SS, NN, A, D, MM) Mostly pagan worldview with moral relativism wherein man prays to the angels of the West, East, South, and North before tucking his daughter to bed, as well as some humanist elements, criminal has a change of heart and man pretends to be homosexual to fool homosexual guard; more than 100 obscenities and two strong profanities; very strong violence includes chase scenes, explosions, fighting in martial arts hand-to-hand combat, man's arm broken, plutonium pill burns away man's flesh to reveal skeleton, shootings and stabbings; female strips down to underwear and undoes her top (from behind) while arousing man, homosexual flirting and some brief sexual talk; partial female nudity and scenes with female cleavage; alcohol use; smoking; and kidnapping, stealing, lying, and cheating.
GENRE: Action Thriller/Martial Arts Movie
CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE stars rapper DMX as a jewel thief and martial arts actor Jet Li as a Taiwanese government agent, who team up to recover some ominous black diamonds and the thief's young daughter. Some overused plot devices, lots of strong foul language, and sexual content spoil this movie.
There is something really wrong with a movie that is written at the intellectual level of an 8-year-old, yet carries an “R” rating meant to keep someone that age away from it in the first place. Regrettably, that is just one example of what is wrong with CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE.
CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE begins promisingly enough with the suspenseful execution of a daring plan to break into the Diamond Exchange to steal millions of dollars in precious stones. No sooner is the grand scheme set into motion than it begins to come apart at the seams as Su (Jet Li), a Taiwanese government agent, throws a big monkey wrench into the works by alerting the police to the robbery in progress. Totally unaware that the flawless black diamonds they are carrying away with their booty have a much more ominous reason for their value than sheer beauty, the audacious team led by Tony Fait (DMX) manage to get away from the cops in the nick of time. Naturally, the more sinister the diamonds’ potential purpose may be, the more villains, crime lords, and vicious killers which wind up attracted to them, and a mad, murderous dash in pursuit of the stones soon ensues.
In the end, special agent Su will get to face the evil Ling (Mark Dacascos), his old nemesis who is as skilled in the martial arts as he is ruthless, and Fait will have to contend with the kidnapping of his own daughter, Vanessa (Roxana Brusso). Lucky for them, Fait and agent Su are not in this alone, they will count on the assistance of Fait’s resourceful partners in crime, which includes the beautiful Daria (Gabrielle Union) and the talented Tommy (Anthony Anderson). Bringing up the rear is Tom Arnold as Archie, a good-natured con artist and black market dealer par-excellence. The stage is now set for Su to try to recover the stones, which belong to his government and pose a potential threat to the world’s stability. Tony Fait will have to try to rescue his young daughter whom by now he has come to realize is more valuable than any precious stone he’s ever had, while the evil Ling will attempt to get the diamonds to achieve his greedy, diabolic aims. Throw in some fairly spectacular chase sequences using cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and SUVs, a couple of jet powered helicopters, large caliber guns, knives, even kitchen forks, kick boxing, tae kwon do, dead bodies all over, sexual titillation, loud music, and even a military tank, and there you have it, a slightly better than totally forgettable production.
All having been said, CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE is one small cut above the derivative, though still purely generic, as video-game-mentality movie followers of this type of action movie have grown comfortably accustomed to today. Yet, this movie could have been a lot better if its producers had only had the creativity and courage to leave the same old overused plot devices and ideas where they belonged, namely in other more successful films. A steamy strip tease scene played by Daria, foul language permeating the entire movie, and moral relativism justifying criminal behavior do not help either. Some credit, however, should be given to Director Andrzej Bartkowiak for a few riveting hand to hand combat and spectacular chase scenes. Editor Derek G. Brechin, and Director of Photography Daryn Okada should get the lion’s share of that credit, however, for the crisp, snappy, well shot action, and expert intercutting of multiple scenes.
Jet Li, as a laconic, pockmark faced Jackie Chan type, is just too stoic to be really liked here, and DMX together with Jet Li as the lean, mean, fighting machine duo have all the charm of a glass of warm water. On the other hand, and partially due to low expectations, DMX does fairly well by himself as another angry rapper turned to angry actor. Roxana Brusso is cute as Fait’s feisty little daughter, but Gabrielle Union as Daria comes across a touch too shallow to make a lasting impression. Mark Dascascos is impressive enough as the evil Ling, while the beautiful Kelly Hu as his equally evil sidekick does not get any considerable screen time to fully show her capabilities. Tom Arnold as Archie, the you-name-it-I-got-it-for-a-price dealer, tries too hard to play his role as comedic relief designee, and in the end is neither funny, nor serious enough. In this weak talent field it is Anthony Anderson who ultimately rises to the top, showing some solid acting skills.
Close to the beginning of the movie, Fait prays to the angels of the West, East, South and North before tucking his daughter to bed, and nearing the end he has a change of heart, deciding to give up his life of crime. If that small prayer was able to accomplish so much in the time it took to run the movie, it is not hard to imagine how much more good it would have done if DMX had found the one and only God of the Bible, who is truly everywhere, and had prayed for the producers of this unwholesome turkey to make a better movie than it turned out to be.
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