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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cradle 2 The Grave
Cradle 2 The Grave
Warner Bros. // R // August 12, 2003
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 30, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"Cradle 2 The Grave" is simply what it is. It's a ridiculous martial arts/action movie. It has no ambition to be better than the usual, but provides the expected: Jet Li, doing stunts that make him look like a human special effect? Check. Car chases? Check. Catfight between Gabrielle Union and Kelly Hu? Check. Cheesy Dialogue? Check. So-so acting? Check. Slight story, slick cinematography and flashy editing? Check, check and check.

The film is directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, who directed star Jet Li in "Romeo Must Die" and was the cinematographer on "Lethal Weapon 4", where Li had a small role. His directorial efforts - 3 , at this point - have been largely the same. While technically well-made, there's got to be a better script out there for director Bartkowiak's visual style and Li's rapid-fire action.

The film stars Li and rapper DMX, who previously appeared in the director's "Exit Wounds", where he co-starred with Steven Segal. DMX plays Tony Fait, a big-time robber who's accompanied by a loyal crew (Anthony Anderson, Gabrielle Union and Drag-On). The movie opens with a robbery sequence where Fait has worked his way into a vault where precious black diamonds are hidden. Li is a Taiwanese intelligence officer named Su, who's been sent to the US to recover said stones, which could cause destruction if obtained by criminal Ling (Mark Dacascos). Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold play the sidekicks. Yeah, it's that kinda thing.

It's fun to finally see Jet Li back to normal after the ridiculousness of the effects-driven "The One". He still hasn't found an American film to match his strengths, but at least this provides a chance for Li to look calm, cool and collected and he leisurely (and effortlessly) shows off his martial arts skills. DMX needs some further work in terms of acting, but he certainly has presence and intensity to spare. Tom Arnold is actually amusing here once or twice (no, I couldn't believe it, either.) Gabrielle Union is good in a smaller role, while the great Chi McBride (who deserves something more than "Boston Public") turns up in a supporting effort.

The film's action scenes are satisfactory; Li provides some impressive moves (although the action scenes in Li's "Kiss of the Dragon" were better), while DMX is featured in an ATV chase that zips up stairs and over a rooftop. The plot is ridiculous and the movie is often silly, but it doesn't claim to be anything more than it is. It doesn't claim to be a groundbreaking action film, either, but it's one of those actioners that passes the time pretty superbly on a rainy day.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Cradle 2 The Grave" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is generally an excellent transfer, with only a couple of flaws to keep it from being outstanding. Sharpness and detail are first-rate, as the picture remained bright, crisp and well-defined throughout. Fine details weren't always present, but the brighter, outdoor scenes offered a lot of depth and definition to the image.

The picture remained largely free of flaws, but I notice a few concerns that presented themselves once or twice throughout the film. Some light instances of edge enhancement were present, although not enough was present to really effect the image quality. A couple of traces of pixelation appeared, but nothing serious. As one would expect, the print seemed to be in excellent condition, with no scratches, wear or dirt. Colors remained bright, rich and well-saturated throughout, with no issues. Another very nice transfer from Warner Brothers.

SOUND: "Cradle 2 the Grave" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack capably handles the material. Although sound effects aren't constantly flying from the rear speakers, the film's sound mix does a fine job to open out the action further into the listening space, with cars driving through and other such events. The score and rap songs on the soundtrack also take full advantage, as both are often heavily reinforced by the surrounds. Audio quality was perfectly fine, as some sound effects and the rap tunes were backed by solid bass, while dialogue and other sound elements remained clean and clear.

EXTRAS: A feature on camera placement (which includes a multi-angle look at the final fight); a feature on a new camera "decender" device used for an action scene; a feature on Ultimate Fighting; DMX "X Gonna Give It To Ya" music video; trailer and bios. Not too much, but given the fact that nearly everything seems to have a commentary these days, it was almost nice to not have one to go through here.

Final Thoughts: "Cradle 2 the Grave" was a basically enjoyable action movie. It wasn't anything extraordinary and Jet Li still needs to find a better showcase for his action talents, but it passed by quickly and had remained energetic and moderately entertaining. Warner Brothers has provided a nice DVD for the film - audio/video quality are first-rate, and the extras are slim, but informative. A rental for action fans.

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