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Tony Fait (DMX) leads a pro crew of crims (Anthony Anderson, Gabrielle Union, Drag-On) and pulls off a major diamond heist – including a handful of exceptional black diamonds. He’s soon face to face with Su (Jet Li) a Taiwanese Government agent on a mission to recover the black diamonds. But it is Su’s 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 – and Ling kidnaps Tony’s young daughter to force the young father to deliver the precious jewels – which are much more than mere diamonds. The kidnap forces Tony and Su to join forces against overwhelming odds.

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 Li’s 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 – 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. Don’t rush away before the credits have rolled, or you’ll 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. It’s a blast. And that goes for the film too!

In a film with stunts like these, we are keen to know how the impossible is achieved and you won’t be disappointed. The two main features on the DVD describe in detail how two major stunts were shot. Ultimate Fighting Champions shows how the sequence in the boxing ring with real-life heavyweight champions was created. The challenge, says producer Joel Silver, was to find 15 guys who are near Jet Li’s standard and capability. By recruiting real heavyweight camps, kickboxing champions, lightweight champ and the world kickboxing champion, the stage was set with a group of ultra strong and fit fighters. We see choreographer Corey Yuen’s blocking tapes as he puts the actor and fighters through the paces. It’s a wild, raucous scene, and Silver remembers how enthusiastic the fighters were during the 10 day shoot, and pleaded with them not to rehearse quite so ferociously, as blood was splattered everywhere.

Movies can make everything happen, smiles Jet Li, as we hear about the ultra sophisticated pulley system for the ‘Descender’ stunt, in which Li’s character descends backwards from a skyscraper floor by floor. The filmmakers were looking to create a stunt that had never been done before and when they heard of a new device with which the stuntman could descend and stop at intervals, the idea of jumping from floor to floor, beginning from the roof was born. State of the art technical equipment was used and careful integration of camera action ensured the best result was achieved.

Published August 14, 2003

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

DIRECTOR: Andrzej Bartkowiak

SCRIPT: John O’Brien, Channing Gibson (story John O’Brien)

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16: 9 widescreen presentation

SPECIAL FEATURES: Ultimate Fighting Champions; The Descender Rig; Music Video; Cast & Crew; Trailer;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: August 13, 2003

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