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Cradle 2 Tha Grave Review
 
 
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Old 05 Mar 2003, 09:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Cradle 2 Tha Grave Review

Bad movies kill you incrementally, but "Cradle 2 to Grave" is so egregiously slipshod, so flamboyantly awful, that it might get the whole job done in one sitting.

Most poor-quality cinema simply wastes your time and money, but the new Jet Li and DMX vehicle seems to go out of its way to insult your intelligence and social sensibilities. Even bombs "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" and "The Transporter" seem like sensitive dramas compared to "Cradle 2 the Grave."

How offensive is it? Star Jet Li tosses a little person around in a cage match, using him as a weapon. Then comedian Anthony Anderson, posing as an exterminator, gains access to a building because he's spraying for bugs and diseases brought in "by foreigners." Within the first few minutes, the filmmakers even suggest gay men are vulnerable to corruption because of their unchecked sexual desires. (Straight Anderson flirts with a gay security guard.) Staying on this course, "Cradle" elicits as many (unintentional) giggles as painful moans - if you don't walk out during the first half-hour.

Director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who previously worked with DMX in "Exit Wounds" and Li in "Romeo Must Die," continues his signature abuse of plot coupons instead of building characters within believable stories. Plot coupons are Interzone magazine critic Nick Lowe's term for cheap plot devices that send characters on an endless quest for objects or information.

DMX plays Tony Fait, head of a gang of gem thieves whose contracted diamond heist goes awry when Taiwanese cop Su (Li) steps in. Fait gets away long enough to say prayers with his 8-year-old daughter and show her a magic trick. However, Fait lost all the loot but the black diamonds (see plot coupons), and now he's hunted by warring factions who killed his boss.

When plot threads break, characters are forced to make large, logic-free jumps to the following scene. "I know, I can just feel it," says DMX when he predicts that the diamonds are hidden in his rival dance club. If the director thinks his audience might have missed something obvious, even pre-stated, more dialogue can't hurt - unless his villain, when talking to the world's foremost arms dealers, actually begins a speech with "You are the world's foremost arms dealers."

Li, who found popular acceptance with the flashy but empty "Romeo Must Die," deserves better. The Asian director and star of classics "The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk" and "Once Upon a Time in China" hasn't been cast well since hitting Hollywood in "Lethal Weapon 4." If, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, he improves his English, Li could take on more complex roles. Right now, Li's heavy accent restricts him to roles of limited dialogue and little character development. As with Chan, American cinema hasn't learned to shoot Li's kung-fu skills in longer takes. Instead, we get chopped up cuts of his kicks, so subtle in some scenes that his upper body doesn't seem to move at all.

And if Li finds some subtlety, DMX uses "Cradle 2 the Grave" to flaunt his own vain, atomic machismo. The hip-hop star turned actor wants to be all things to all people, thereby making himself and his characters silly and transparent.

As Fait, he's the muscle-bound criminal with a "no guns" policy and a loving curtain-tugger. In "Exit Wounds" he played a similar moralistic everyman, a menacing rule breaker but ultimately a moral character. All this posing exposes DMX to be neither believable nor empathetic.

Traveling from cradle to grave would be an actual movement forward. But "Cradle 2 the Grave" goes nowhere, wandering in a circle of bodies, explosions and jumbo plot holes while chasing its own tale. Replete with audience-insulting writing and blatantly hateful jokes, storytelling like this makes most video game plots look like "Moby Dick."
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To paraphrase Spinal Tap, it's a fine line between silly and stupid when it comes to over-the-top action movies. Cradle 2 The Grave treads that line with surprising agility.

Silly - as in gleefully excessive to the point of self-parody - is good. Stupid - as in glum and self-important - is bad.

Cradle, directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Lethal Weapon 4) and written by a passel of script writers, including Reggie Rock Blythewood (Biker Boyz), is ridiculously excessive in just about every way, but makes no pretense at being anything but a stylish slab of escapism set to a stomping rap/rock soundtrack.

The story revolves around a high-tech gang of jewel thieves led by the buff and gruff Fait (rapper DMX), who kick things off by emptying out the vault at a diamond exchange. The movie makes it clear these are the good bad guys, because Fait says the diamonds all belong to "drug dealers and money launderers," then goes home to cuddle his adorable little girl, Vanessa (Paige Hurd).

Along the way, a mystery Chinese guy (Jet Li) is on their trail. Along the way, he kicks a lot of people silly, often with one hand literally in his pocket. Eventually Fait and company learn that the mystery man is a Taiwanese secret agent called Su, who is after some strange "black diamonds" taken in the heist.

So do the bad bad guys, a sneering band of black marketeers led by Ling (Mark Dascascos, of Brotherhood of the Wolf). A third force - local gangsters answering to an imprisoned boss played with oily relish by Chi McBride - grabs the stuff just before Ling's mob kidnaps Vanessa to force Fait to turn over the goods.

That's where Fait and Su team up and, with Fait's crew to help them, set out to whup and wallop their way through the back alleys of Los Angeles, including an illegal "ultimate fighting" match where Su fights off a cage full of gorilla-like thugs.

Virtually all the fights (though not necessarily the vehicle chases) are smartly designed and edited; unlike many such flicks, most combat scenes in Cradle make inherent sense as set pieces, even when their connection to what passes for the story is will-o-the-wisp thin.

The movie even dishes up comic relief. Humor is a critical element in saving this kind of hyper-charged action bash from turning into a 90-minute headache, even when the jokes arrive in the form of Anthony Anderson (one of Fait's cronies) and Tom Arnold (as a pawn broker who stocks tanks and mortars). It doesn't really matter that their lines aren't particularly funny; their presence is the joke.

And where would an action movie be without a near-naked woman, in this case Gabrielle Union as the Bonnie to Fait's Clyde; she (and her body double) perform an extended strip-tease to distract an enemy while the gang blows out some more walls.

The fight scenes grow more and more outlandish until the climactic showdown, involving the tank, helicopters, sniper fire and a nuclear-powered poison pill - not to mention the inevitable big kick-off between martial-arts stars Li and Dascascos.

Granted, Cradle 2 The Grave is not destined for greatness. But it's not interested in greatness, either. It is a willful absurdity proud to wear the label of guilty pleasure.
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These guys who wrote the reviews can kiss my ass since this movie was really good and above all FUNNY as hell since at the start they flirt with the desk clerk...LMAO...the music is also awsome and the end scene is so fuckin' awsome!
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Old 06 Mar 2003, 09:11 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I want to see it. It looks good.
 
Old 06 Mar 2003, 03:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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awe that sitnks...hey im still gonna see it for my baby DMX!
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Old 08 Mar 2003, 01:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Nah, I think I'll wait for the DVD
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