Cradle 2 The Grave (2003) zero stars
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak. Written by John O'Brien & Channing Gibson from a story by O'Brien. Photography, Daryn Okada. Editing, Derek G. Brechin. Production design, David Klassen. Music, John Frizzell & Damon "Grease" Blackman. Producer, Joel Silver. Cast: Jet Li (Su), DMX (Fait), Anthony Anderson (Tommy), Kelly Hu (Sona), Tom Arnold (Archie), Mark Dacascos (Ling), Paige Hurd (Vanessa) and Gabrielle Union (Daria). A Warners release. 110 minutes. R.
Hard as I tried to find the title's relevance to the film, I could not discover it. Except perhaps that watching, squirming, suffering, falling asleep, and later having to think of what to say, cut a large slice of my life and accelerated the date when my body will be given to science. In other words, this is one of the stupidest films I will have seen between my post-cradle years and my future demise.
The smaller mystery of the title, "2" instead of "Two" might just be explained by illiteracy or advertising lingo.
Rapper (and also actor) DMX is a master boss of super-accomplished and equipped (both incredible) jewel thieves. Also the loving father of a cute girl. The last heist (special diamonds) has failed, compliments of Taiwanese agent Jet Li. Then DMX's daughter is kidnapped. Then both super-thief and super-agent become strange bed fellows in order to rescue the kid as well as the now missing black diamonds. Then the diamonds turn out to beoh, never mind.
All this means action, ACTION, ACTION, ACTION!!! It is non-stop, makes absolutely no sense, is totally, entirely unbelievable even by martial arts, heist, chase, electronic and all other standards -you name them. It is intercut with sex that's barely plausible and, at least in dialogue, wide-ranging. Among other unreal notions is a jailed, powerful crime-boss whose in-prison dwelling is a luxurious space with all imaginable amenities, including henchmen subordinates, a cook, rich cuisine and cops as flunkies. And more.
The single male performer with an interesting face, good looks and acting ability beyond clichés is Jet Li's former boss, whose function iswell you decide. He is played by Hawaii-born Mark Dacascos, a handsome male Eurasians who was seen most recently in that 2001, pretty good French movie "The Pact of the Wolf."
The perpetrator-director of the film is Andrzej Bartkowiak, born in Lodz (Poland) in 1950. The Lodz film school is one of the best anywhere, and many of its alumni are great filmmakers. But in the scant biographies of the man we get only a filmography. Bartkowiak is (was?) an A-class cinematographer for over 30 American features, many of them notable: "Deathtrap," "The Verdict," "Terms of Endearment," "Prizzi's Honor," "Falling Down," "A Good Man in Africa," "The Devil's Advocate," "Losing Isaiah," "Speed," and others. Then, in the year 2000, he switched and became a film director, with "Romeo Must Die ," the Steven Seagal vehicle "Exit Wounds," the TV pilot for the series (did they ever materialize?) "HRT." And now "Cradle."
Why go from a first-rate cinematographer to a director of poor movies? Search me! But I do know that his latest effort (an euphemism), as well as films made by other people who churn out junk with no substance but with tons of special effects, are flourishing at the box office, while real, good or excellent movies languish.
PS . The majority of reviewers gave this work the grade of D, or its equivalent in star-ratings. My own "zero stars" rating is, in letter-grade terms, an E.
A friend told me to expect irate messages from viewers. "Not to worry" I replied, "most of the people who saw and liked that film do not read reviews."