Directed By: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Written By: John O'Brien
Starring: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Mark Dacascos, Gabrielle Union, Drag-On
Rated: R (violence, language, some sexual content)
Running Time: 100 Min.
Cradle 2 the Grave is an L.A. action flick about a band of professional thieves, headed by Tony Fait, played by DMX. Since Tony is one of the heroes of this picture, he makes sure that he and his gang only rob from other criminals. How's that for integrity? They've just completed a big jewel heist, which happened to include some rather interesting black gems. Luckily, the vault at the Diamond Exchange was only guarded by one little security camera. Unluckily, it now seems that everyone is after those little black stones. Jet Li plays Su, a Taiwanese Secret Service Agent who obviously doesn't understand where his jurisdiction ends. Agent Su is hot on the trail of Tony and his crew, as are the bigger, badder criminals, headed by the nefarious Ling, played by Mark Dacascos. Ling wants his stones back. Tony and Agent Su are on opposite sides of the law, but neither wants Ling to have the black gems. Naturally, they are forced to put aside their differences long enough to keep the black stones safe, defeat Ling, and save the world. Want more? Okay, you asked for it! Along for the ride is Archie, a motor-mouthed arms dealer played by none other than Tom Arnold. Also, the bad guys take Tony's young daughter hostage. Oh, and the black stones? Let's just say that sometimes, appearances can be deceiving.
I'll keep my technical review of this movie short and to the point. First, everything that happens in it is completely unrealistic. Second, it features the most erratic cross-cutting between subplots that I've ever seen. If you were editing this movie, would you cut away from a strip tease by Gabrielle Union for comic relief from Anthony Anderson? That's just rude!
But then, who goes to a Jet Li movie for the plot? No, you go for the action, and Cradle 2 the Grave has plenty of that! The chases and fights in this film are absolutely incredible. I have great respect for Jet Li's fighting skills, and can always count on him for authentic martial-arts action, which still manages to be wildly original. My favorite move in Cradle 2 the Grave comes during a no-holds-barred prize-fight, in which Jet Li flips a guy by hooking his fingers under the guy's rib cage. Freaking AWESOME!
Another thing I liked was that Tony had a golden rule for his gang, which was that they did not use guns. In fact, through most of this movie, not a shot is fired by anyone! Now that's integrity! Unfortunately, the integrity is lost in the final twenty minutes with an all-out bloodbath of deadly fire. So much is invested in Tony's 'no guns' creedo that I can only conclude that this idiotic, overblown finale was the shameful result of a last minute rewrite. Had the golden rule not been broken, it would have set Cradle 2 the Grave apart and above the rabble of other action flicks. I'd love to see a 'bullet-free' alternate ending to this movie!
So, if you want to see some excellent action, where bad guys keep making the mistake of messing with Jet Li and DMX, and you don't mind Tom Arnold tagging along, Cradle 2 the Grave delivers the goods. If you're looking for more than that, you're out of luck.