Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger
Starring: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Mark Dacascos
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Jet Li and DMX team up for what I can only describe as a fight-fest with the feel of ROMEO MUST DIE but with a lot more action and a lot less story.
Su (Jet Li) is in the States investigating the theft of some ‘black diamonds’ for the Taiwanese government. Tony Fait (DMX) pulls a heist on a vault stealing some very valuable jewels, which include the aforementioned diamonds, but while realising they are valuable doesn’t know exactly what they are. The stones had previously been stolen by Ling (Mark Dacascos), a powerful criminal who wants them back and kidnaps Fait’s young daughter to achieve this. Meanwhile another gangster steals them from Fait’s fence Archie, played by Tom Arnold, so Su and Fait team up to find the so called ‘black diamonds’ and rescue Fait’s daughter.
CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE is virtually non-stop, back-to-back action and fighting sequences and to this end it succeeds very well. The martial arts action is spectacular and while DMX proves he can handle himself well in the tough guy stakes, Jet Li effortlessly shows that when it comes to the chop he is in a class of his own. Only Jackie Chan appears as skilful using martial arts in mainstream cinema but the two are miles apart in the way they portray their skills.
All of the CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE cast seem to put in perfectly acceptable performances and Tom Arnold is back on top form throwing in some much needed humour, so why did I walk out at the end of the film feeling something very important was missing from the movie? It is simply that the story, what little there is of it is as thin as rice paper. It’s very contrived and seems to be used purely to string together the action and fight sequences. Even the ‘ring of fire’ in which the final fight scene between Li and the bad guy takes place is apparently created by random explosions – it’s a perfect ring of fire – see it and you’ll know what I mean. Also what the ‘black diamonds’ are, almost enters the realms of sci-fi in the way that this part of the story is handled. Now I’m a fan of the sci-fi genre but it’s totally out of place in a film like this.
In conclusion, and the reason I’m going to give the movie
is because, with all things considered the standard of the fighting and action sequences is very high and there is so much of it that the eventual entertainment level is also actually quite high. Still you do tend to feel you’ve experienced a slight assault on your senses but this is purely because of the amount of screen action on display combined with what is, a very good soundtrack.
However let’s hope that Jet Li’s next film gets back to the standard of KISS OF THE DRAGON, which proved that superb action can combine with a satisfying story. It’s just a matter of remembering to write the story before you film the action scenes!