So once again we have survived.

Cradle 2 the Grave

From the same director, producer and cast as Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds comes another exciting pile of disparate elements squooshed together into the same basic shape as an action movie. It’s really more of a booger sculpture than a movie, but for a booger sculpture, it’s not that bad, I guess.

Joel Silver originally announced this as Untitled DMX Project, supposedly a remake of Fritz Lang’s M. If that was the case, then I guess Tom Arnold (our generation’s Peter Lorre) would’ve been playing a perverted child killer whose killing spree had caused the police to clamp down so hard that organized crime would be pretty much put out of business. So the leaders of rival gangs (DMX, Jet Li, Mark Dacascos) would pool their resources to catch Tom Arnold so everything could go back to normal.

Cradle 2 the GraveI knew Silver was trying to put one over on us though ’cause I remembered when Romeo Must Die was supposed to be a “hip hop/kung fu adaptation of Romeo and Juliet” and when Exit Wounds was supposed to be an adaptation of John Westermann’s novel Exit Wounds. It’s all hype. When people hear something like “they’re doing a remake of M starring DMX,” they get riled up, and this guarantees that they will later see the movie when it comes out as Cradle 2 the Grave and turns out to be about diamond thieves who steal diamonds that are actually magic plutonium weapons and their daughter gets kidnapped so they have to team up with a Taiwanese intelligence agent to do various stunts and kung fu to save the daughter.

(?)

No, I guess actually come to think of it I’m not sure what they were thinking comparing this to a movie it has no relation to in any way. Or calling it Cradle 2 the Grave, which only relates to the plot in the same way that “Grape Nuts” describes that nasty cereal that doesn’t have grapes or nuts in it at all. But these guys are professionals, they must know what they’re doing.

If not, I’ll tell them what they’re doing. The approach to these movies is this: we don’t have a good story or characters, but we know what audiences want. They want Jet Li. They want DMX, on the screen and on the soundtrack. They want the end credits from Exit Wounds. They want a bunch of fire. Going off jumps. Stuff crashing. There should be high tech equipment. Ultimate fighting. Motocross. A hot chick stripping to her underwear (but no further. This is America, fer crying out loud).

Some of these elements do in fact work. DMX rarely appears in a halfway decent movie, so he has a lot of practice at being better than the movie. He is as magnetic and charming as usual, and this time he doesn’t believe in guns and just wants to save his daughter so he can hug her and talk about angels. Jet Li does a lot of good kicking and jumping around and climbing down buildings and shit. But I’m not sure I like the way the Americans always doll him up, giving him spikey hair and sunglasses, trying to make him look that kind of cool. Jet Li is kind of a timeless figure. When you try to hip him up and dress him in all black (but not a kung fu tunic) you emphasize that he’s this little babyfaced dude with a squeaky voice. He seems like he’s trying to overcompensate for something, which is ridiculous. Jet Li doesn’t need to compensate at all.

The screenwriters are in fact overcompensating though, figuring if they can pile enough complications onto the storyline then everybody will get confused and forget how dumb the movie is. At one point in the movie, Jet Li is in a cage, swinging an angry bald kung fu midget at 20 kickboxers and Ultimate Fighting Champions, while Tom Arnold scans the crowd trying to find a particular guy wearing a particular ring, and this keeps cutting to Anthony Anderson and friends trying to get a limo to a particular parking garage in Chinatown so they can meet up with DMX, who is driving an ATV/quadracer/4-wheeler/whatever you call those god damned things across rooftops, being chased not only by police but by the angry professional motocross racers who he stole the thing from. And meanwhile DMX’s daughter is taped up in a motorhome inside a building where “international scumbags” will later meet to see a demonstration of the new powerful artificial plutonium weapons, and until then she is watching her dad get chased on TV.

And that pretty much sums up what this god damn movie is like. Except I want to say one other thing. At the end, Jet Li takes some kind of atomic weapon and shoves it down Mark Dacascos’s throat, forcing him to swallow it. There are then shots from inside his throat. And on the outside, he starts to glow from his neck, mouth and eyes, and his face melts like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I just want to say, that was really dangerous Jet Li, you should probaly go see your doctor, you don’t know what kind of effect that could have on you being right next to that shit. It’s unhealthy.

Honestly, this movie was more entertaining than some less retarded but equally unimaginative action movies. But it’s still a low down shame to think how much effort goes into an enterprise like this. Why not take all that elbow grease, bottle it up, and save it for a real movie? I know DMX is ready for one. Or if you can’t handle that, you could probaly take this budget and make 7-10 really hilarious straight to video Seagal movies.

http://youtu.be/drFQFchScUQ

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2004 at 9:50 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Drama, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Cradle 2 the Grave”

  1. Did you know Joel Silver tried his damnest to get Sean Penn for the DMX part? No shit.

    I basically agree with this review, though I admit I kinda liked the ATV chase if because you dont get that many urban ATV chase scenes at the movies. Though again, maybe its the idea thats more appealing than necessarily in the execution.

    Ever notice though how when such the original basic plot template began, it was two serious white guys…then white guy with black guy, who was the comic relief jackass. Then cut to RUSH HOUR, and its two non-white leads, with black guy still the relief. Then with CRADLE, its two serious non-caucasian actors, with Tom Arnold the comic relief asshole.

    How progressive! Though I must admit, I stole that point from the Roger Ebert review. Sorry.

  2. So I came across this one in a second-hand DVD store, bought it, and watched it. As you do.

    Can I first say that I really like the visuals and cinematography in this one? If they were paired with decent editing, characters, or script, then this’d be a classic. Woulda shoulda coulda.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this though:

    “I want to say one other thing. At the end, Jet Li takes some kind of atomic weapon and shoves it down Mark Dacascos’s throat, forcing him to swallow it. There are then shots from inside his throat. And on the outside, he starts to glow from his neck, mouth and eyes, and his face melts like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I just want to say, that was really dangerous Jet Li, you should probaly go see your doctor, you don’t know what kind of effect that could have on you being right next to that shit. It’s unhealthy.”

    And there I was, going to say something along the lines of, “So Jet Li collapses and dies from acute radiation sickness a day or two after the events of the movie, right?”

    I’d also point out that Kelly Hu’s death is EXACTLY the same as the one she gets in “X-Men 2”, if you swap “weird liquid metal injection thingies” with “bullets”. The expression on her face both times is identical. I think even there’s even a similar sequence of camera angles. Man, I really like Kelly Hu, but she’s so much better than this. Why the heck was she even in this movie, apart from to give Gabrielle Union somebody to fight at the end? Her character doesn’t do anything the entire way through.

    And while we’re on the subject… the final showdown, ring of fire and all, seems like a direct ripoff from the scene at the end of “Romeo Must Die”. There’s even a helicopter that’s brought down (although by very different means). Honestly I thought “Cradle” was better-made overall, but “Romeo” was a helluva lot more entertaining and had better action. I mean, neither is exactly good, but “Romeo” had better characters, higher stakes, and a bit of mystery to add to the tension. They both suffered from a severe over-abundance of wire-fu, but “Romeo” had far better fight editing, for my money. I mean, in “Cradle” you see TITO ORTIZ AND CHUCK MOTHERFUCKIN’ LIDDELL fight it out in an underground cage match. And they’re barely recognisable until the fight is over, the editing is so choppy. Hell, I recognised Tito’s “Team Punishment” t-shirt before I recognised Tito himself.

    (Also I have to ask: given the relations between those two, how much did they have to pay Liddell to lose a fight to Ortiz onscreen?)

    Yeah, for me this is one of those movies that just suffers from nothing in it being particularly good. The stars are given very little to do, the story is overcomplicated and doesn’t really let any of the characters have a “moment”, the action is choppy and badly-edited, and the whole thing comes off as deeply derivative. I’ve seen everything it does done before, and done better for the most part, in other movies. As far as Li and DMX go, “Romeo Must Die”, “Unleashed”, “Kiss of the Dragon” and “Exit Wounds” are all way better than this. Hell, you guys know I can’t stand “Hero”, and even that at least fails spectacularly. “Cradle 2 the Grave” doesn’t even have that going for it.

    Yeah, I agree with Vern wholesale on “Cradle 2 the Grave” I think. A pity, I’ve always liked DMX as an actor. But as Holmes said, “You can’t make bricks without straw”.

  3. The Original Paul

    September 2nd, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I don’t think Vern’s reviewed THE ONE yet. So, just having rewatched it for the first time since its release, may I comment here on how this may be the one movie to dethrone TERMINATOR 3 as the single dumbest thing ever filmed?

    Apart from the Li vs Li fights, you get: villain-Li’s “victims” (also Jet Li in a sequence of ridiculous wigs), a femme fatale who busts Li out of prison using an exploding rat (I’m pretty sure that neither the femme nor the rat is ever seen or mentioned again), and best of all, the following thing to signify that this is a parallel universe: George W Bush talking about his plan for “Universal Healthcare”. Oh, and they add random animal sound effects to villain-Li’s scenes. There’s a scene of him practicing martial arts that ends with an arm flourish and what I’m pretty sure is a grizzly bear’s snarl. Fun!

    It’s an early and much-mentioned plot point that villain-Li has superhuman speed. This is how the movie chooses to convey this:

    1) Have someone yell “He’s going at fifty!” while showing a shot of him running in front of a car at what is very clearly normal speed for a man and extremely slow for a car.
    2) Get rid of some of the frames of film so that the scene appears choppy (so it looks as though the projector might be on the blink, but everything is clearly moving at the same speed as it was before).

    Oh, and the multiverse prison is Stygian penal colony, Hades universe. Subtle!

    With all this idiocy, I’d at least hope THE ONE would hold up as watchably dumb. Unfortunately it doesn’t… Jason Statham is in it but doesn’t get much to do except scowl, neither good-Li nor evil-Li are particularly interesting to watch, Delroy Lindo is wasted, the action has far too much wire-fu, choppy editing and inappropriate slow-mo, the film goes to great and implausible lengths to make sure nobody realises that there’s actually two Lis so as to keep the “tension”, and even the moment at the end where it looks as though the wrong Li might be sent to Hades is wasted – nothing comes of it. Sadly, this is one of those movies where the DVD extras are the most entertaining part. At least it’s not as bad as CRADLE.

  4. I disagree. It´s indeed dumb, but it is always entertaining and I don´t think you watch this movie for its “tension”. You watch it because you get to see Jet Li not only fighting himself, but also smashing guys with one motorbike in each hand. I think it´s pretty great. It´s a dumb concept, but it´s a hoot to watch.

  5. The Original Paul

    September 3rd, 2015 at 3:58 am

    Shoot – I’d agree if I found the action thrilling. The trouble is that at times the “multiverse” thing seems like less of a plot point and more an excuse to get the same action sequence added to the movie twice. Add to that far too much unnecessary slow-mo (you know I hate that!) and at times it feels as though the movie is slowing to a crawl.

    I mean, they manage to make Jet Li’s action scenes boring. How the heck does that even happen?

  6. The Original Paul

    September 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 am

    That sequence where Evil Li is hiding in the vent while people are shooting at him, for example. That felt like it dragged on a bit the first time round. What on earth made the filmmakers think it’d be good to show this scene twice? I know the perspective has changed slightly – previously Li was the prisoner, now he’s the guard – but come on.

  7. You make some good points, but if LOOPER has taught me anything it is to tell my brain to shut the hell up when it is presented with a moronic piece of shit sci fi premise. Although I think LOOPER is a lot dumber and less enjoyable than this. Just thinking about it…no never mind. Don´t you even think about it, brain! Don´t you dare! *brain forced to visualize chainsaw-wielding dwarf apes*

  8. The Original Paul

    September 3rd, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Ah, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I wasn’t a huge fan of LOOPER – I put it in my “just ok” category in that thing I did in the forums – but it’s way better than THE ONE.

    I kinda wish I’d enjoyed it as much as you did, but honestly it bored me.

    I will give you the double motorcycle kill though. That was pretty nice.

  9. THE ONE is just dumb fun and it knows it. LOOPER has delusions of cleverness and it suffers for it.

  10. The Original Paul

    September 3rd, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Where the heck did this comparison come from all of a sudden? The only thing I can see LOOPER and THE ONE having in common are main characters wearing ridiculous wigs.

    Majestyk – I’ll grant you the “dumb” part. But THE ONE really does not hold up very well. I get the impression from the extras that the cast and crew had a lot of fun making it. I kinda wish I’d had as much fun watching it. It’s not SUDDEN IMPACT bad or anything, but it’s not good.

  11. Paul- Sometimes I get `Nam Flashbacks from my experiences of watching LOOPER. And they often reoccur when other high concept sci fi action films are mentioned. I apologize for my PTSD.

  12. The Original Paul

    September 4th, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Shoot – I can’t judge you. I get much the same thing whenever anybody mentions OUT OF SIGHT or MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3.

    There are films that are terrible because zero effort or talent went into making them. And then there are films that obviously have talented people working on them, but all of that effort is wasted on a shitty, shitty movie. The second lot can be the most frustrating, I feel.

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