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CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE

SYNOPSIS:
Tony Fait (DMX) leads a pro crew of crims (Anthony Anderson, Gabrielle Union, Drag-On) and pulls off a major diamond heist Ė including a handful of exceptional black diamonds. Heís soon face to face with Su (Jet Li) a Taiwanese Government agent on a mission to recover the very same black diamonds. But it is Suís ex partner and now traitor Ling (Mark Dacascos) who is the intended recipient, until imprisoned crime lord (Chi McBride) gets his hands on the diamonds Ė and Ling kidnaps Tonyís young daughter to force the young father to deliver the precious jewels Ė which are much more than mere diamonds. The kidnap forces Tony and Su to join forces against overwhelming odds.


Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Rappers and hip-hop artists are muscling in on the actors; there was Eminem in 8 Mile and Lil Bow Wow in Like Mike Ė and thatís just off the top of my head. Now itís DMX, platinum selling hip-hop artist. And heís darned good at acting. (Dunno about his music, never heard it. My life is shrinkingÖ) Aimed at a market of hippers-hoppers and anyone under 30, Cradle 2 The Grave sets out to bring the Hong Kong style martial arts film to an American sensibility, with recognisable story, characters, plot elements and as much destruction as possible. It also touches on the most contemporary of topics: weapons of mass destruction in the wrong (illegal, uncontrollable) hands. So itís pretty heavy material, even though the film is meant to be only entertainment and not a weapon of crass deconstruction about todayís volatile global nightmare. (I write this late in the evening of March 11, 2003Ö.) Excellent direction delivers action at mayhem speed, from a stunning jewellery heist for openers, to a supercharged finale with three major fight sequences simultaneously in different locations. Letís not forget editor Derek G. Brechin, either Ö. The film has no pretensions about its place in the entertainment world, although it does serve up a superior set of ingredients, from writing to execution. And major martial arts fight scenes, many of which are shot in the full. In other words, as well as the close ups, we get the wide shots of the real action, which enhances credibility, veracity and the physical context. But thereís always enough time for character and humour in the film: Tom Arnold is great as the comic relief. Jet Li is stoically functional as the martial arts supergun from Taiwan, where he works in secret intelligence, and through all the violence, he and DMX kick ass with gusto - but with a lack of malice or hate that softens the psychological impact. I know this may come across as delusional of me (or rationalising), but thatís how it plays for me. Odd but true. As for the title, I have no idea what it means. Itís far too violent for political correctness, but itís like when we were kids, playing Cowboys and Indians: itís play acting as a way of confronting death at a safe distance. And as a way of being heroic in our own lunchtime.†

Review by Louise Keller:
A fast-paced, big action hip-hop kung fu thriller, Cradle 2 The Grave stretches the boundaries of the genre with an engaging combo of Jet Li magic, a smart, funny script and spectacular stunts. From the opening daring jewel robbery sequence when a funky Mission Impossible-style team puts the plan into action, to inventive, original exploits, director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die) has pulled out all the stops to go far beyond the predictable. But Jet Li is not the only star attraction. Star rap artist DMX (who penned and recorded three songs for the soundtrack and has sold over fifteen million records in two years), has a natural screen appeal, working with Li for the second time (their first collaboration being in Romeo Must Die). Add the very funny and entertaining Anthony Anderson, the sexy Gabrielle Union and the unflappably amusing Tom Arnold whose one liners seem to come as fast as Liís punches, and you get the idea. Martial arts champion Mark Dacascos, as the ruthless (and exotically handsome) villain Ling makes a great adversary, with attractive side-kick (pun intended) Kelly Hu who boasts a black belt in martial arts. Li is as watchable as ever Ė a man who allows his actions to speak for himself, as it were, often without even taking his hands out of his pockets and hardly raising a sweat. Good scripting, an upbeat toe-tapping rap soundtrack and classy stunts elevate this action thriller, while superb editing allows the excitement of multi-action scenes to be cleverly spliced together adding greatly to the tension. There is a car chase, a high speed ATV chase (mix of racing car and bike) in which the vehicle leaps tall buildings in a single bound, high kicks, karate chops, big explosions, an impressive sequence in a boxing ring in which Li is confronted by 15 opponents including real-life heavy weight champs, a stunt hanging from an airborne helicopter and a heart-pumping climatic finale which includes five helicopters, an army tank plus a final conflict for two set in the middle of a ring of eight foot flames. Some of the funniest moments are between Tom Arnold and Anthony Andrews who both have the gift of the gab. Donít rush away before the credits have rolled, or youíll miss the priceless (seemingly improvised) scene at the end in which Arnold and Andrews debate about the casting of the film they intend to make recounting their story with the likes of Arnie, Mel, Denzel, Oprah, Halle and Winona. Itís a blast. And that goes for the film too!

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE (M)
(US)

CAST: Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Mark Dacascos, Gabrielle Union

PRODUCER: Joel Silver

DIRECTOR: Andrzej Bartkowiak

SCRIPT: John OíBrien, Channing Gibson (story John OíBrien)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Daryn Okada

EDITOR: Derek Brechin

MUSIC: Damon 'Grease' Blackman, John Frizzell, Chad Hugo (songs), Pharrell Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David F. Klassen

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 27, 2003







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