Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Written by:John O’Brien, Channing Gibson
Starring: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Mark Dacascos
Released: March 27, 2003
Grade: C+

Action without substance – as much as I’d like 2, I just can’t get excited about a film like Cradle 2 The Grave.  It’s directed by Polish-born Andrzej Bartkowiak who three years ago, made a similar film starring Jet Li, Romeo Must Die.  The only other film Bartkowiak has made was last year’s Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal.  Here’s a guy who isn’t going 2 be winning any critical acclaim but has found himself a small action niche 2 focus his attention and specialise his craft.

There’ll be more such films 2 come in the resume of Andrzej Bartkowiak because Cradle 2 The Grave debuted on top of the box-office chart in its opening week in the United States.  We can’t always sit through emotional heartbreaking dramas and the success of Cradle is validation that unrealistic action films are a permanent and necessary feature of cinema.

Here, Tony Fait (DMX) and his crew orchestrate a huge diamond heist.  The authorities however receive a tip-off from an undercover Taiwanese agent, Su (Li) and Tony and his crew lose most of their loot in fleeing the scene.  The only item they retain is a bag of “black diamonds” and unsure of their value, they turn 2 friend Archie (Arnold) 2 suss out the market place.  Within 24 hours, Archie’s place is ransacked, the diamonds stolen and Tony is back where he started.  But it gets worse when a mysterious gang kidnaps Tony’s daughter and demands the diamonds for her safe return.  Of course, he no longer has them.

The agent Su reveals himself and he and Tony form an unlikely partnership.  The guy with the goods is Ling (Dacascos) and the content of these “diamonds” are not only valuable but dangerous – the world is in jeopardy.  Su and Tony need 2 stop Ling before it’s 2 late.  Yawn…

I’m not directly criticising the plot but it’s just so typical and unadventurous.  As for the action, it’s also unrealistic.  There are many marital arts scenes but it’s so obvious people are suspended from invisible ropes.  How else can people jump so high?  How else can people suspend themselves for so long in the air?  How else can people do so many somersaults and back flips?  It’s becoming oh so boring and it’s time 2 lose this silly novelty.  Another common action flaw is followed here – fast editing.  The camera is chopping and changing and it makes it look fake and difficult 2 follow.  Of course, this is done so we don’t tweak 2 the fact stunt doubles are being used. 

I’m not sure about that title either.  I think it’s trying 2 be cool with the use of the number 2 instead of the word but that’s the only reason I can think of.  What about a sequel called Cradle 2 The Grave 2?  Woah, I’m freaking out here.  At least this train of thought is providing more stimuli 2 my brain than the film itself.