Cradle 2 the Grave

There seems to be a new genre of films – the one with a rap star & martial artist kicking arse, set to a thumping rap soundtrack – backed by Joel Silver. Already we have had Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds and Half Past Dead and unfortunately Cradle 2 the Grave cannot separate itself from the expanding crowd.

The atrocious plot starts with Tony Fait (rapper DMX) and his crew robbing a stash of diamonds which include a cache of mysterious black diamonds. It turns out that these diamonds are sought after by more than just one person and before long a notorious LA crime lord steals the diamonds from Fait. Also lurking around and getting into the occasional Kung fu fight is Su (Jet Li) who has been sent to retrieve the diamonds by the Taiwanese government who are the rightful owners of them.  

When the evil Ling (Mark Dacascos) wants to steal the diamonds to sell on the Black Market he takes Fait’s daughter hostage. Ling’s interest in the diamonds is due to their unique properties to be used in weapons of mass destruction. Thrust together by circumstance, Fait and Su decide to team up and face Ling together – Fait for his daughter and Su to retrieve his government’s dangerous property.

There are many problems with Cradle 2 the Grave starting with DMX’s character. Here is a guy who spends his time between praying for angels to keep his daughter safe and meanwhile hypocritically spends his time stealing. Why bother trying to shove the whole ‘he’s really a bighearted father with a heart of gold’ routine? It just came across as unbelievably lame, overly melodramatic and clichéd.

Other aspects that really let down the film are the hugely ridiculous and pointless scenes that seem to be added just for either convenience or pointless showpieces. Such as DMX’s gang using a rocket launcher in the original heist that none of the security guards acknowledge and in fact dismiss it as an earthquake – and this is during the daylight with plenty of people around. Are these people really that stupid? Others include Ling’s helicopter being shot down by a tank and exploding – and amazingly Ling emerges to have a showdown Kung fu fight with Su  - complete with a couple of grazes but with his hair immaculately in place. One of DMX’s gang, played by Gabrielle Union, does a gratuitous strip tease, which seems to be added purely to appease the slack jawed teens which the film seems to be squarely aimed at. Unfortunately the list keeps growing with ludicrous scenes that allow a known jewel thief and Taiwanese agents free access to a maximum security prison to meet the LA crime lord.

One of the worst scenes is the bidding between the worlds leading arms dealer for the diamonds- it is so unbelievably bad with unconvincing extras (who look nothing like arms dealers) yelling “I will pay [add your own figure here] million dollars for five diamonds”.

Performances are pretty bad with DMX playing, unsurprisingly, the same angry black guy that he always plays. Anthony Anderson plays funny fat side kick again and does manage to raise a few laughs with fellow funny man Tom Arnold. Jet Li spends most of the film just looking intense and kicking arse which is hardly a stretch for him. He has only two real showpieces, the lacklustre finale and a fight scene where he beats up twenty fighters in a steel cage. Gabrielle Union is sexy as always and her catfight between her and the equally sexy Kelly Hu again seems tacked on to appease the fellas.

Cradle 2 the Grave is a half-hearted attempt to cash in on the pulling power of its stars than anything else. With plenty of ridiculous moments and stupid characters it really will never rises to any level of serious entertainment. It’s a film with no heart and one that is much less than the sum of its part. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who also directed Exit Wounds, has regurgitated the same formulaic crap, but with less enthusiasm and flavour.

SCORE 4/10