Cradle 2 the Grave isn't worth sitting through at the theater and should have gone straight to home video.
By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2003
Two things about American cinema are inevitable: Ticket prices will keep rising at theaters, and home video will become the exclusive domain of junk movies like Cradle 2 the Grave. Both are already happening; the first too quickly and the second not fast enough.
Shoving a run-of-the-thrill flick like Cradle 2 the Grave into theaters rather than going straight to video is just a test of the public's willingness to pay twice the cost of a DVD rental for entertainment not worth a blank disc.
Cradle 2 the Grave isn't getting a grade from me because I realized the futility of a serious review halfway through and walked out. Such movies are commonly offered on home video, rented by people who don't care about plot, dialogue or acting as long as somebody gets roughed up or sexed up along the way.
This is no different, featuring Mark Dacascos, a martial arts performer without the appeal of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or even Jean-Claude Van Damme. The guy is a mannequin who moves, reciting lines with unconvincing machismo.
Jet Li was an exciting newcomer in Lethal Weapon 4 after a risk-defying Hong Kong career. But American studios have gradually reduced Li's athleticism to OSHA-approved wire stunts and rapid-fire editing.
And though DMX has proven he can actually act -- as a thuggish drug dealer in Belly and by comparison to Steven Seagal in Exit Wounds -- the script in this movie gives only the most rudimentary character touches to his streetfighter persona.
Oh, the plot? DMX steals a cache of rare black diamonds that Li wants returned to his boss and Dacascos wants to steal. Lots of glowering faces and background rap justify a soundtrack CD. DMX drops his bad attitude for one scene with his daughter, gifting her with a necklace he stole. I walked out when Dacascos kidnapped her for leverage.
Let me guess. DMX and Li forge an unsteady bond for the sake of the girl and the gems. Maybe some comic relief from sidekicks Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold. There's a final showdown at a warehouse or waterfront or something.
Don't tell me. And don't show me at the theater again. As ticket prices increase, studios will learn that spending their advertising budget on a home video release will pay off better than a theatrical release for junk like Cradle 2 the Grave. It can't happen too soon.
Grade: Does it matter?
Director: Andrzej Bartowiak
Cast: Jet Li, DMX, Mark Dacascos, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold
Screenplay: John O'Brien, Channing Gibson
Rating: R; violence, profanity, sexual content
Running time: 100 min.