003797Reviews & Counting
Cradle 2 the Grave
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Cradle 2 the Grave order
Andrzej Bartkowiak

Jet Li
Mark Dacascos


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A jewel thief (DMX) teams up with a Taiwanese special agent (Li) to take on a mysterious international crime ring that's stolen something dear to each one of them. Avoiding the cops, other gangs and other undesirables, they take names and kick ass along the way to the tune of some heavy hip-hop.
Before it totally unravels into a finale that redefines the term "idiocy", CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE is actually a pretty entertaining ride, delivering exactly what you would expect from a movie without any freshness to its plot, serving more as a vehicle between fistfights than anything else. Li and DMX traipse around town beating up anyone they can get their hands on while the obligatory hotties and substandard comic relief artists respectively show some cleavage and spew out one-liners. The two clowns in question are Anthony Anderson, who actually gets a few laughs out once in while, but the other is the mysterious Tom Arnold, who continues to amaze by actually having a career despite being about as funny as that third heart attack I had the last time I ate at Denny's. The film follows Bartkowiak's standard M.O. established in ROMEO MUST DIE and EXIT WOUNDS, which is to say a lot of martial arts, a lot of neat camera angles and very little in terms of a story. Unlike DMX, Li actually shows a bit of improvement in terms of acting here, but relies on his natural forte of bludgeoning people with swift kicks and flying fists for the most part. And what's with all this karate nowadays? Whatever happened to good ol' reliable handguns?

A large supporting cast also makes its way into this flick, including Chi McBride in an uncredited role as an asshole mob boss, Gabrielle Union, keeping on just enough clothing not to be called a whore, some dude named Drag-On (I'm serious) and Kelly Hu, the reason that I continue to invest heavily in reinforced jeans. Rounding off the cast as the main villain is Mark Dacascos (BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF), who goes toe to toe with our man Jet in terms of dishing out the ass-whipping. It's a credit to Bartkowiak that he doesn't even try to make more out of the plot and concentrates instead on making the movie look cool, which it does. Having said that, this wire-fu hip-hop stuff is getting real tired real fast and after three cable-supported kicks at the can, you'd think he'd at least try to make something different. Nevertheless, the first hour offers a few cool shots, while the last half hour is probably the stupidest I've seen all year. What should that mean to you? Not recommended, that's what!
There's a substantial enough list of extras on this DVD and extra points should be given to the producers for not including a commentary track. The two stars can't really speak English that well and if you want Bartkowiak's take, just pop in any one of this other DVD'S and chances are...they'll coincide.

Ultimate Fighting Champions: Profile of the Movie's Martial Artists (8 mins.): A closer look at some of the fighters that were used in this movie's Ultimate Fighting sequence. This is pretty cool if you've ever witnessed this type of fight. Included here are commentaries by Jet Li, the fighters, the fight choreographer and producer Joel Silver's nose. This gives you a little bit of insight about what's required to film such a scene.

Choreography of the Camera: Multi-Angle Fight Sequence (7 mins.): Bartkowiak is a former cinematographer himself and has a liking for using several cameras to shoot the same scene, thus capturing several angles at once for his editor to put into a montage. Admittedly, his fight sequences look pretty damn good. This feature does get a bit redundant though as they drill that fact into your head for 4 minutes and follow up with a short fight sequence which you can view from several angles by pushing the appropriate button on your remote.

The Descender Rig (3 mins.): One of the coolest sequences in the film is the opening shot of Li (or rather, his stuntman) scaling down a building by dropping from balcony level to balcony level. This is a brief look at the rig that was built both to drop the stuntman down the building and to move the cameras around in order to capture the best angles for the shot.

DMX Music Video: "X Gon' Give It To Ya" (4 mins.): If you consider rap to be music, then you'll know what this is. If you don't, then just move on and forget about this one.

2 Hidden Featurettes: Time Lapse Montage and Rear Projection (5 mins.): If you go into the two special feature menus and click your remote to the right, you'll access two separate features. The first contains a short time-lapse montage of a day on the set filming the ultimate fights sequence of the film and a few others. It's very short and they type a few facts on the screen, but it's really nothing to write home about. The Rear Projection sequence describes the camera effect used to create the appearance of a struggle taking place on the top of a subway car. It's a very old type of effect that's still around nowadays and to be honest, it's very refreshing to hear someone describe how a shot was made without sitting at a desk in front of a computer monitor.

The Theatrical Trailer as well as a section containing Cast & Crew Bios are also included on this disc.
The DVD package contains enough material for the curious, but not really much to please DVD aficionados. Combined with a film whose style is quickly becoming tired and whose obvious weak plot unravels to the point of being ridiculous, it's hard to recommend this to anyone but big Jet Li fans and those who enjoy wire-fu and the like. Even then, it's a rental at best and one with which you're best to pack another choice on two-for-one night.
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