Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Producer: Joel Silver
Cast: Jet Li, DMX, Gabrielle Union, Tom Arnold, Anthony Anderson, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, Drag-On, Paige Hurd, Johnny Tri Nguyen
Running Time: 100
I’m one of those people who stays in the theater after the closing credits start rolling. I want to see if they put in some little scene at the end. Usually, there’s nothing. Once in a while, there is. Example: Jeepers Creepers. Too bad I didn’t find out until afterwards that the guy who wrote and directed it (Victor Salva) likes to have sex with 12-year old boys (well, ONE 12-year old boy, anyway).
Anyway. When I went to see Cradle 2 the Grave, I broke my own tradition. As soon as the names started rolling and yet ANOTHER blaring, abrasive, obnoxious rap “song” cued up, I peeled my sorry ass off the seat and made for the exit. But then, I heard Tom “What the fuck was I thinking when I married that fat bitch RoseAnn” Arnold’s voice over the rap (talk about the lesser of two evils) and knew something was happening. “What the hell,” I thought. “It can’t get much worse.” I turned around and watched an exchange between Tom and the guy who played Maurice in Romeo Must Die (a lackluster film from the same director which is absolutely dazzling compared to this one) in which the former describes his plan to write a movie about the events they’ve just survived and the latter offers various bits of input. This scene’s idea of “wit” is a proposal that the female thief be played by Winona Ryder. And, the really scary thing is, this is probably the best part of the whole movie.
My original plan was to write a review filled with numbers in place of syllables and syllable fragments, emulating the “2” in place of “to” in “Cradle 2 the Grave.” I even preemptively made a list of number/word hybrids that I could use, such as “satur9” and “4thwith” (my favorite was “defenestr8”). Obviously, I ditched that plan, because A) I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought of it, and B) this movie is not worth the effort it would require to sustain that kind of wordplay for more than a sen10ce or two.
So…we have DM “Why the fuck is my name only three letters and consonants at that” X leading a quartet of thieves, whose “no guns” policy and exclusive victimization of drug dealers and other unsavory types don’t make them any more likable. The other members are Maurice, the buxom ex-stripper Daria, and some other guy whose only reason for existence is to get Jet “Why the fuck am I here playing second fiddle to some crapper…uh, RAPPER when I could be back in Hong Kong making REAL movies” Li involved. In the opening scene, DMX and no-name break into a room full of safe deposit boxes while Daria uses her womanly wiles (read: big tits) to distract a security guard named Douglas. Alas, it turns out Douglas is gay; Daria realizes this when he resists her charms and she notices some gay porn sitting on his desk. (Something else she might have considered before spotting the magazine: maybe the guy actually had some sense of discipline?) Time for Plan B: Maurice comes in, pretending to be gay himself, and comes on to Douglas (no, not THAT way, you perv), who, being a plot device disguised as a character, takes the bait.
DMX & co. wind up with a bag of what appear to be black diamonds which are actually an inert from of super-explosive being sought by a Taiwanese gang led by Mark “Why the fuck is this shit getting a wider release than Brotherhood of the Wolf” Dacascos and his playmate Kelly “Why the fuck did those CBS dickheads have to cancel my meal ticket Martial Law” Hu. They are former government agents who, at some point in the past, betrayed and tried to kill Jet’s character. However, this is revealed only through dialogue, and details are extremely scant. Hence, when Jet and Mark have their final showdown inside a circle of burning helicopter fuel, we have very little reason to give a damn.
A la Kiss of the Dragon, the bad guys kidnap DMX’s daughter, bind her with duct tape, and stick her in a stolen van with spray paint blocking the windows. We never find out who this kid’s mother is, but since she manages to cut through the tape with a gold necklace hanging on the wall, I guess it was MacGuyver’s long-lost sister or something. After she has outlived her usefulness to the villains, she is inexplicably kept alive while they demonstrate the explosive capabilities of the “diamonds” to an assembly of international black market tycoons. This “demonstration” consists of one of the stones being placed in a fancy-looking device that emits bright beams of green light (goggles required) while the guy operating the machinery verbally states the destructive level that the stone is reaching as a graph on a computer monitor climbs higher and higher. No low-powered explosion is triggered to prove that these guys aren’t bullshitting, and no visible, tangible evidence is given to indicate that these things are, truly, anything other than shiny black rocks placed inside a machine that puts on a light show. Nevertheless, the arms dealers in attendance begin to drool all over themselves and erupt in a bidding frenzy.
To no one’s great surprise, cut-crazed editor Derek Brechin fatally injures Cory Yuen’s fight choreography, and then the overall shittiness of the film puts it out of its misery. This is by far Jet Li’s worst American film (probably his worst film, PERIOD, for that matter), and also his most bland, generic role to date. (He’s a law enforcement official from Taiwan who can beat people up. That’s it. There is literally NOTHING else to the character, unless you count his unnamed, unseen 15-year old daughter. I mean, shit, at least he had his needles in Kiss of the Dragon.) Cradle 2 the Grave is not recommended even for the unintentional comic relief, or for completist purposes. There is simply no excuse for a movie this bad. Andrzej Bartkowiak, John O’Brien, and Channing Gibson should all be defenestr8ed.
Numskull’s Rating: 2/10