Jet Li, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu
John O'Brien, Channing Gibson
Born 2 the life. True 2 the code. Bad 2 the bone.
The slam, the glam, the jam: Cradle 2 the Grave brings it! Producer Joel Silver and director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who fused martial arts with hip-hop style in Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds, take it to the next level with Cradle 2 the Grave. Screen heros Jet Li and DMX hit home and hit hard, starring as rivals-turned partners in a volatile street war ignited by kidnapping, stolen black diamonds and a sadistic crimelord (Mark Dacascos). Kelly Hu and Gabrielle Union flex beauty and strength as foes destined for a clawdown. And Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold add comedy jams to all the excitement that's set to give-it-to-ya. No mistaking it, from start 2 finish, Cradle rocks.
$16.521 million on 2625 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 101 min.
Release Date: 8/12/2003
• Featurette - Ultimate Fighting Champions
• Featurette - Choreography of the Camera
• Featurette - The Descender Rig
• Music Video
• Cast & Crew
• Theatrical Trailer
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.
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Cradle 2 The Grave (2003)
Reviewed by David Williams (August 11, 2003)
The fusion between hip-hop and kung-fu has reached an all new low with director Andrzej Bartkowiak and producer Joel Silver’s latest vehicle together, Cradle 2 The Grave. The team responsible for Jet Li’s Romeo Must Die and the Steven Segal dirtloaf Exit Wounds have decided that if there’s one thing the movie going public can’t get enough of, it’s crappily executed and shoddily written kung-fu flicks with rap laden soundtracks! In a cruel twist of fate, the film actually contains a good scene - and it’s while the credits are rolling! (The scene at the end of the film with Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson is admittedly pretty funny … you’ll have to rent it or ask around to find out what makes it “good” … or at least better than the rest of this train wreck.)
Much like the earlier films from Bartkowiak, DMX plays the heavy, Anthony Anderson shows up to provide the occasional laugh, and Jet Li is there to simply kick everybody’s ass – although Steven Segal got the ass-kicking honors in Exit Wounds. Unfortunately, this all takes place within the confines of a generic, middling action flick that we’ve been force fed on more than one occasion. There’s no new ground broken in Cradle 2 The Grave, as the script is nothing more than an afterthought and is simply treated as a by-product of the prerequisite of mindless action sequences.
In Cradle 2 The Grave, we are introduced to Tony Fait (DMX), a high-tech criminal mastermind and thief with a heart of gold whose stereotypical crew – Tommy (the “funny” one – Anthony Anderson), Daria (the “saucy / sexy” one – Gabrielle Union), and Miles (the “babyface” – Drag-On) – live by a strict credo of only robbing from other criminals and never carrying firearms (Whatever!). Fait is also a very devoted, single, father who prays nightly with the light of his life, his eight-year-old daughter, Vanessa (Paige Hurd).
It seems that during one of Fait’s heists, he managed to swipe some black diamonds. Neither Fait nor his fence, Archie (Tom Arnold), are aware of their worth, although a Taiwanese intelligence officer recently sent to the US - Su (Jet Li) – has been in hot pursuit of the precious stones. These are no ordinary black diamonds you see – somehow, they can be combined with other elements to create some sort of nuclear “weapon of mass destruction”.
The heist was cut short when Su anonymously called the cops and through some very bad luck, the jewels ended up in the wrong hands. However, Su isn’t the only one looking for the stones, as they are also being sought out by a diabolical Asian baddie, Ling (Mark Dacascos) and his henchwoman Sona (Kelly Hu). The duo still believes that Fait and his crew have the stones and in order to show him how serious they are about acquiring them, they kidnap his young daughter and use her as bait, threatening to kill her if the stones aren’t handed over right away. Forced to team up, Fait and his gang, as well as Su, attempt to infiltrate Ling’s syndicate, find the person who actually has the diamonds in their possession, and rescue Fait’s daughter – all while keeping the world from going up in one, big mushroom cloud. It all leads up to a hilariously staged battle royale where the fate of the free hand literally hangs in the balance.
Cinematographer turned director Andrzej Bartkowiak has tried this infusion of rap/kung fu before with equally craptacular results, yet he somehow manages to con studios and producers into fronting the cash to continually get these projects made. Bartkowiak’s pacing, quick edits, and shaky camera work are amateurish to the point of frustration and he drags out certain sequences to the point that you’re literally yelling at your TV set – “OK! Enough already!” You would think that with a script this bad, the group would have concentrated on crafting the action sequences a bit better, but unfortunately, there’s little in Cradle 2 The Grave that impresses. (Notice I said little, there are a couple of admittedly cool sequences.)
Li carries himself well in the film and struts with his usual quiet and subdued confidence. His martial arts skills are as impressive as ever and it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t have a director savvy enough to properly showcase them – even Corey Yuen’s choreography can’t overcome the fast paced and sloppy editing. (We interrupt this brawl with 15 UFC fighters to bring you - DMX on a 4-wheeler!. Now, back to the fight – wait!, let’s check out the 4-wheeler chase again!) DMX is enigmatic as the film’s lead (but still only a so-so actor at best), Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold provide intentional comic relief (there’s quite a few folks responsible for the unintentional comedy), and Kelly Hu is completely wasted, as her only purpose seems to serve as eye candy for the viewer. (Which, in and of itself, isn’t too bad now that I think of it.)
If you like your action formulaic with plot holes big enough for DMX to drive an ATV through - and laughable dialogue to boot – then Cradle 2 The Grave is right up your alley.
The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+
Warner presents Cradle 2 The Grave in an anamorphically enhanced transfer in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. As usual, Warner has given DVD viewers another top-notch transfer that exhibits very little in the way of flaws. It looks as great as you’d expect such a recent release from a major studio to look and Warner has added another entry into their long line of outstanding transfers.
The picture was amazingly sharp and detailed at all times and there was hardly a moment that passed in the film where detail wasn’t crisp and very well-defined – even on the smallest and most subtle of objects. Warner’s transfer contained excellent depth, with superb shadow detail and delineation. Black levels were consistently strong and never exhibited any signs of breakup or murkiness at any time and really allowed the image to maintain a very film-like and three-dimensional appearance.
The color palette in the film was natural, albeit rather unremarkable, as the film contained dimly lit nighttime sequences, as well as sequences that took place in brighter outdoor conditions. The palette remained very rich and well-defined, with balance and saturation looking to be right on the money at all times. Fleshtones were accurate and natural as well and from all indications, Warner has another winning transfer on their hands.
Flaws were run of the mill and limited in quantity, as edge enhancement and shimmer were noted at points during the film, as was a very slight amount of pixilation in one area. Other than that however, Warner has master print that is relatively free of flaws, dirt, scratches and other defects. Ultimately, Cradle 2 The Grave was one great looking DVD.
The film also received a nicely authored Dolby Digital 5.1 that is on par with the fine video transfer the film received. Seeing that Cradle 2 The Grave staunchly sits in the action genre, Warner made sure to give it an audio transfer to match.
Featuring a heaping of rap songs for the soundtrack, Cradle 2 The Grave always manages to find something for your .1 LFE to do, although it never reaches very forceful or antagonistic levels. It’s a very solid, deep, rumble throughout that really adds to the viewing and listening experience for Cradle 2 The Grave. Effects were pretty abundant in the film and Warner did an excellent job of making sure they made great utilization of your surround sound setup. There was some excellent panning, as well as some smooth directional cues and transitions, as your front and rear surrounds really opened up the soundstage in an ambient and enjoyable manner.
The film’s soundtrack was quite active and Warner has given each of the songs and funky orchestral moments excellent clarity, presence, and fidelity with some nice reinforcement from the rear surrounds. LFE usage, as mentioned previously, was quite strong while reinforcing the score and it added another nice aural element to complete Warner’s excellent 5.1 mix. Dialogue was front and center and easily understood at all times, as problems such as harshness or edginess never found their way onto the disc.
The studio has also included a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in French, as well as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
There’s not really a whole lot to talk about in the way of extras for Warner’s Cradle 2 The Grave DVD, as the first supplement we run across is entitled Ultimate Fighting Champions (8:21). Here, we get an in-depth look at the cage fight sequence seen in the film and see how the principals staged the fight with actual participants from the UFC. Slightly interesting and worth a look.
Following is Choreography of the Camera (4:30) and here, we hear from the principals, including the director, producer, cinematographer, editor, and stunt coordinator. They discuss using multiple cameras on the set to record a single scene, angles used to achieve certain shots, and so on. Nothing you haven’t seen or heard elsewhere, but still slightly interesting.
Next up is The Descender Rig (3:02) and it introduces us to a certain device – the descender rig (duh!) – that allowed the crew to achieve certain shots during stunts. While short, it’s still an interesting piece.
Finishing off the disc are a Music Video for the song “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” by DMX; a text-based Cast & Crew section featuring Filmographies for Jet Li , DMX, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Mark Dacascos, Gabrielle Union, John O’Brien, Channing Gibson, Joel Silver, and Andrzej Bartkowiak; and a Theatrical Trailer for Cradle 2 The Grave. While definitely not a whole lot to write home about, it’s doubtful that many more viewers would have embraced Cradle 2 The Grave had Warner gone to the effort of giving it a true “Special Edition” treatment. Hard to blame the studio for not wanting to spit-shine a turd.
If you’re interested, a couple of Easter Eggs can be found on the disc. First, place your cursor on the Music Video item and press –RIGHT-, Li’s knee will turn green and then press –ENTER-. We get a 1 minute and 40 second time lapse of certain sequences in the film (using footage from the set), with occasional pauses used to display text-based factoids about the shoot. The second egg can be found by placing your cursor on the Cast & Crew section and pressing –RIGHT- again. Gabrielle Union’s necklace will turn green and then you’ll hit –ENTER-. Here, we get 2 minutes and 56 seconds of footage showing us a bit of detail on how Rear Projection was used to create certain sequences in the film. We also get some decent discussion from those involved with this old, but tried and true process.
Cradle 2 The Grave was another bad film with good intentions and it’s unfortunate that Jet Li hasn’t found his breakthrough vehicle in America to really showcase his talents. Fight scenes in Hong Kong are choreographed like a Fred Astaire dance number and unfortunately in the States, in most cases, they’re shot and edited like an amateurish music video … not to mention the fact that Li hasn’t really had a good, competent script to bust his chops on either. These, along with other aforementioned factors, all boil down to the simple fact that Cradle 2 The Grave just isn’t that great of a movie.
Ultimately, Warner has given fans of Cradle 2 The Grave a top-notch DVD where it counts – the audio and video areas – and if you’re a Jet Li (or DMX) completist, you’ll be happy with Warner’s disc. Worth a rental for action freaks, but very hard to recommend site unseen simply based on the weaknesses of the film itself.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8571 Stars|| Number of Votes: 28|