Cradle 2 the Grave

What exactly does the title Cradle 2 the Grave have to do with the rest of the movie? Don't think too hard, because it doesn't. Make any sense? No, but neither does the rest of the film. Now that Jet Li has firmly established himself as a star in American movies, he seems to gravitate towards the latest trend in martial arts movies, the melding of martial arts and hip-hop. It's a novel idea, and one day a good movie will be made, but that has yet to happen. As for Li (The One, Kiss of the Dragon), if he keeps making these, his star will begin to fade. Why cast him in a movie if they don't give him a chance to cut loose? His strength is in his martial arts, not his acting. Li is Su, a member of Taiwanese intelligence who tracked a cache of stolen black diamonds to Los Angeles. Fait (DMX, Exit Wounds, Backstage) is some sort of righteous thief (he refuses to use guns) who gets his hands on the black diamonds and wants to sell them to the highest bidder.

The plot (or what there is of it) is only an excuse to stage a series of elaborate action sequences. DMX rides an ATV all over Los Angeles. Li ends up going up against a whole cadre of ultimate fighters. A tank crashes into a building, and then two guys fight in a ring of fire while water falls around them (at least it looks cool). Credit for the story goes to Reggie Rock Bythewood (Biker Boyz, Dancing in September), John O'Brien, and Channing Gibson (Lethal Weapon 4). All that Fait knows is that he has something extremely valuable on his hands, and that people are willing to kill for it. For bizarre reasons, he teams up with Su against an international arms dealer (Marc Dacascos, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Instinct to Kill). They run around town doing strange things that really make no sense.

Another clue that shows how vapid Cradle 2 the Grave is that director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die) has not one, but two annoying sidekicks. Tom Arnold (Hansel & Gretel, Exit Wounds) and Anthony Andersen (Kangaroo Jack, Barbershop) are hard enough to tolerate by themselves, but to have them join forces here is like some diabolical scheme. The ironic thing is that the most amusing part of the film plays out over the credits, when the two riff off each other.

What is leftover is Li and DMX. Li is doing his best to look tough, but it never works. And when Bartkowiak finally does let Li get his moves in, haphazard editing and bad angles spoil watching him at work. DMX does have some screen presence, but it's best left in small amounts. Character development for him amounts to nothing more than giving him a daughter, so he seems a little more human. However, 'presence' does not make him a good actor. His lines are short, and DMX has a gruff voice that screams them out. It would work much better in a five-minute music video. After a lot of waffling, the movie finally gets around to the finale, which is an adequate scene that does make up for a lot of the rest of the film.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and some sexual content.

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