Cradle 2 the Grave
Grade: D
Year: 2003
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Writer: John O'Brien
Genre: Action
Rated: R

Su (Jet Li) is a Taiwanese special agent. Fait (DMX) is a jewel thief. Tommy (Anthony Anderson) is Fait's accomplice, and so is Daria (Gabrielle Union). Su and Fait don't like each other whenever they bump heads, but their common enemy will bring them together. Fait has a daughter named Vanessa (Paige Hurd), a cute 8-year-old girl whose purpose in this movie is to love daddy and ask for two hugs instead of one. What happens to cute daughters who love their daddies and expect no less than two hugs in action films? They get swiped (off-screen) by the villain who is supposed to kill her if her father (Fait in this case) doesn't give in to their demands (the location of the black diamonds).

The bad guy in this film is Ling (Mark Dacascos), a diamond thief. His sidekick is Sona (Kelly Hu), the token Asian bitch whose one-liner hums to the tune of, "I hate kids." The movie forgets that Fait and his pals are thieves too, but movies like this justify criminals who take out even bigger criminals. Also, Fait has a "no gun" policy when on missions.

Fait is after a collection of rare black diamonds, but the heist goes wrong and they end up in the hands of Ling. Su is also after the diamonds, because they belong to the Taiwanese government. Su must get the diamonds back, and Fait calls the quits when his partner Archie (Tom Arnold) loses them. But when he finds out that Ling has kidnapped his daughter because he thinks Fait still has them, he must team-up with Su and begin their ass kicking adventures.

Unfortunately, this movie lacks in the ass kicking department. It is boggled down by a ridiculous plot, coated with horrible acting and impossible stunts too stupid to enjoy. Can an all-terrain vehicle jump buildings? Even if they can, is it necessary to drive through a building, up the stairs, and off the edge to evade the police?

We learn that the diamonds serve a bigger purpose than just value and eye candy. Each diamond, as one of Ling's henchmen explains, has the ability to cause new world order once all the power is harnessed. Ling plans on selling the diamonds to the highest bidder when the world's terrorists get together for an auction.

This movie reunites Jet Li and DMX, who worked together in more superior mirror-flick, "Romeo Must Die." DMX shows passion, but he isn't quite ready for a lead part, yet. Jet Li is his usual humble self who hates getting into brawls, but doesn't mind beating up dozens of thugs when thrown into the battle cage. He's impressive here, but doesn't fight enough. When he does fight, he's either tossing a midget or doing something silly that belongs in a 'PG-13' movie. Only twice do we see something that warrants an 'R' rating; the rest is a bunch of f-words that take the place of the absent blood and guts.

While still on the subject of silliness, I'd thought I bring up a scene where Daria is helping Fait commit on of their robberies. While Fait is breaking into the vault, Daria is trying to seduce the security guard to keep his attention away from the monitors. When she learns that he's gay, she sends in Tommy to flirt with him. This little scene makes two movies that Anthony Anderson needs redemption for. His last role was one of the leads in "Kangaroo Jack."

I wondered why this movie used Li so sparingly until I was reminded that "Cradle 2 the Grave" was partly written by Reggie Rock Bythewood, who also wrote and directed the hyped up yawn-fest, "Biker Boyz." But some of the blame goes to director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who must have exerted all of his energy into "Romeo Must Die."

This movie is incredibly boring when it has no reason to be. I got excited whenever Li got the opportunity to defy gravity and put the bad guys in their place. It didn't matter to me that the story reached for places unrelated to the movie to stage Li's fights, such as an illegal Extreme Fighting club; I just wanted to see them so I wouldn't have to focus on the laughable plot.

Fait's partner, Archie, is the most interesting character in the movie. He is an underground weapons dealer. At one point he identifies the bad guys by the weapons they use. Archie explains that they're government issues that not even he can get a hold of, yet he'll show you a nice tank if you're tired of your SUV.

The climax involves a tank blowing up a helicopter and a ring of fire for Su and Ling to have their final and unmemorable showdown in. The choreography is done well but it belongs in another movie, a better movie. There just isn't enough action. When it all boils down, "Cradle 2 the Grave" is 2 dramatic and 2 restless.

When the film ends and the credits roll, Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson's characters go into an entertaining dialogue about how Archie is going to turn their adventures into a movie. They talk about the actors who will play everybody, and that the director will be the same guy who did "Romeo Must Die." Arnold then explains that in this movie, like other Bartkowiak films, there will be a dialogue during the ending credits because that was the best part of that movie, "the rest of it (previous films) sucked." Unfortunately, that statement is no exception for "Cradle 2 the Grave."

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Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati