Cradle 2 the Grave
by Del Harvey
Pitting martial artists Jet Li and Mark Dacascos against each other is a great idea, if only they’d just left it at that…
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In what is one of the early contenders for absurd storylines, Jet Li’s a Taiwan intelligence agent on the trail of an L.A. gang of thieves led by rapper DMX who’ve stolen some very rare “black diamonds.” Only they aren’t diamonds, they’re a man-made material that can…oh, that would be giving it away. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?
Well, back to the story, as it were…Seems there’s another set of thieves led by former Taiwanese agent Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven) and lifelong rival of Li’s. Nice set up. Too bad it never pays off. Well, almost never.
Throw in DMX’s daughter, a baaad-ass playuh-kingpin named Chambers (Chi MacBride), and an improbable fence named Archie (Tom Arnold), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for disaster. Writers Reggie Rock Blythewood and John O’Brien gave the script more implausibilities than a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds) exploits these impossible plotlines at every opportunity, and photographs all of it as though it were art. While Li may not be Jackie Chan, he doesn’t deserve this.
There are other cast members, and a whole lot of action - including a cat fight near the end between The Scorpion King’s Kelly Hu and Deliver Us From Eva’s Gabrielle Union (Meow!) - and some great fight scenes and stunts from Li. But second-billed DMX gets star treatment in the acting department and storyline, which makes absolutely no sense when Jet Li has top billing.
Cradle 2 The Grave could have been a good little action film. But even talking about what could have made it better just puts me to sleep. Save your dollars for something better.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He is a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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