Cradle 2 The Grave

The climax of the self-described 'hip urban action trilogy' by producer Joel Silver (who graduated from the same Big! Bad! Loud! school as Jerry Bruckheimer), Cradle 2 the Grave is a high-octane cocktail of motor-mouthed gangster chic, martial arts style and crystal meth plotting.

Summed up by the two names above the title - Jet Li and DMX - C2TG expands on the Kung-Fu-fighting meets LA gang warfare movie born with Romeo Must Die and expanded in Exit Wounds.

And it delivers the requisite flavours and tempos of each genre with gleeful gusto. If your idea of action movie money shots is a 5 foot tall Asian guy locked in a WWF-style cage with fifteen huge thugs, an apartment building break-in accomplished by dropping off the roof from one balcony to another or an ATV chase, you've come to the right place.

The excuse for plenty of explosions, fights and cheap laughs masquerading as a plot concerns a jewel thief, Fait (DMX), whose posse gets ripped off during their latest heist. Enter mysterious Taiwanese intelligence agent Su (Li), who's after the same booty for very different reasons.

When the crooked financier of the deal, Ling (Dacascos, back to straight-to-video form after his star turn in Brotherhood of the Wolf) takes Fait's little girl hostage as blackmail to recover the booty, the action-o-meter cranks up to its maximum.

Each occurrence in the story is another reason for a larger than life chase or fight sequence where you can disengage your higher brain functions for ten minutes and just enjoy the spectacle.

So be warned. It that's your kind of thing, Cradle 2 The Grave will deliver on its promise. If you're after Shakespearean performances or Hitchcock-like turns of fate, take more notice of the trailers next time.

As for faults (even within a genre notorious for examples of how to make a bad movie), Cradle 2 the Grave has a few. Any second grade Christmas pageant performance puts the leads' acting talents to shame.

Jet Li has such an astounding lack of charisma you couldn't call what he does acting by any stretch - he just recites lines between fights. If they could find an acting stand-in between each action sequence he'd be perfect. DMX is (another) rapper turned actor, and it shows in his forced emotional delivery.

The action film is also becoming its own worst enemy, having to constantly outdo itself with increasingly unbelievable stunts and sequences that get harder to swallow - even for action film fans.

But those same fans will get their moneys worth. Cradle 2 the Grave is a slickly produced montage of cool imagery, hard music and the orgasmic buildup of tension you just know is going to explode, with the odd spot of scripting to hold it all together. Like the choc top you take in with you, it's a guilty but satisfying pleasure.

And hang around during the end credits for the banter between Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson that's becoming their signature shtick.

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