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Cradle 2 The Grave (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Ultimate Fighting Champions; Choreography of the Camera; The Descender Rig; Easter Egg – 'Time Lapse Montage' and 'Rear Projection'; 'X Gon’ Give It To Ya' – DMX music video; Trailer.

MARTIAL arts maestro, Jet Li, continues to deliver some truly exceptional fight scenes in some truly moronic movies, pitting his wits alongside wannabe actor, DMX, for his latest, Cradle 2 The Grave.

Having captivated viewers with his physical prowess as the villain in Lethal Weapon 4, Li has appeared in a series of no-brainers, from the passable likes of Romeo Must Die and Kiss of the Dragon, to the utterly stupid The One.

Cradle 2 The Grave, however, takes the brainless action franchise to new extremes, delivering some genuinely thrilling fight sequences and wrapping them up in a needlessly complex, yet equally nonsensical plot, involving a cache of black diamonds that are not all they seem.

Li stars as Taiwanese government agent, Su, who is forced to team up with DMX’s streetwise thief, Tony Fait, to retrieve the diamonds, after they fall into the wrong hands.

For Su, the case represents a chance to catch up with his former partner, Ling (Mark Dacascos), now a ruthless criminal, while for Fait, who initially stole the haul, the diamonds are the only way to secure the release of his daughter, who is being held hostage by Ling.

Thrown into the mix is Tom Arnold’s hapless fence, and Chi McBride’s prison-based crime lord (who gets his hands on the diamonds), in addition to the usual array of ‘heavies’ just waiting to get beat up.

And beat up is probably how audiences will feel afterwards. For the action junkies, Adrzej Bartkowiak’s film provides its fair share of thrills, including a spectacular car chase between the police and an all terrain vehicle, as well as a barnstorming sequence involving Li and a cage full of Ultimate Fighting champions.

But for every high, there are plenty of lows, which constantly undermine the verve of the set pieces. For starters, the acting is awful, with DMX, in particular, providing a completely bland presence, while the focus of the movie feels uneven throughout.

This is, first and foremost, a Jet Li film. Yet most, if not all, of his fight sequences are inter-spliced with brawls involving the movie’s other ‘stars’, which fail to match the ingenuity or excitement of those involving the master.

And his big showdown with Brotherhood of the Wolf’s Dacascos (whom Li’s fans chose, on his website, as the man they would most like to see Li face off against) is, again, marred by the fights going on around it, and by a curious lack of build-up.

Viewers only find out about the history between the two in the minutes leading up to the finale, while Dacascos isn’t afforded the screen-time to make his villain appear evil enough.

The tiresome sentiment, involving DMX’s kidnapped daughter (who grates), also feels false, and only serves to highlight what a terrible actor the hip-hop star really is.

Cradle 2 The Grave performed surprisingly well at the US box office, where it enjoyed a short stint at number one, but you get the feeling that this is better suited to the more-controlled viewing experience that is DVD - you can scene select the action sequences and skip the drivel that comes in between!

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