Bullet Points: Cradle 2 The Grave
…And Then There Was X
The early 2000’s were a strange time. Myspace was the top social media website, instant messaging was the way to get a hold of someone, and cell phones were trying to get as small as possible. The only way to travel was on a razor scooter. The emo look, trucker hats, and grills were big on the fashion scene, albeit, hopefully not altogether. Televisions, most not in high definition, were tuned to Friends and ER with The Osbournes being the picture of a healthy TV family. On the big screen, a new action hero, DMX, teamed with established stars in an unrelated trilogy of films.
- The Definition of X: The Pick of the Litter: Not content with dominating the airwaves with his ubiquitous 1999 hit Party Up (Up in Here), DMX starred in three movies starting in 2000 as three different characters. Several actors, like Jet Li, Tom Arnold and Isaiah Washington, starred in two out of the three movies as different characters. Anthony Anderson starred in all three, while established action stars like Steven Segal, Bill Duke and Mark Dacascos were only in one film apiece. To make it even more confusing, despite having a 2 in the title, Cradle 2 the Grave was the third movie in the series. 2000’s Romeo Must Die only had DMX in a supporting role, but 2001’s Exit Wounds and 2003’s Cradle 2 the Grave were starring roles. All three films were directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, whose name, fortunately, I only have to type and not pronounce.
- Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood: Anthony Fait (DMX) runs a crew, kind of like Ruff Ryders but not at all similar, made up of a crack team of thieves. The beautiful Daria (Gabrielle Union), dependable Miles (Drag-On) and the loveable oaf Tommy (Anthony Anderson) not only comprise his team, but also fill out the roster of most used clichéd sidekicks. The chemistry is good and the actions scenes are better, so the flaws can be quickly overlooked. Archie (Tom Arnold) joins the team as the fast talking pawn store owner/fence who gets tangled up in the action after Fait gives him stolen diamonds to find out their worth.
- It’s Dark and Hell is Hot: The crew is hired through an intermediary to steal rare black diamonds by Ling (Mark Dacascos) an ex-Taiwanese Intelligence Agent with the lovely but dangerous Sona (Kelly Hu) at his side. Ling wants the diamonds, which turn out not to be diamonds, but an undetectable source of weapons grade plutonium, in order to sell on the black market. Ling even holds a black market auction with almost every stereotyped terrorist present. Chasing after the diamonds and thieves is Agent Su (Jet Li) still with the Taiwanese Intelligence Agency and former co-worker of Ling. After getting a hold of Fait, Su explains Ling’s plan. Fait refuses to give Ling the diamonds and realizes he must work with Su to stop Ling. Unfortunately, Fait gave the diamonds to Archie to find their value, and he has them summarily stolen. Fait immediately identifies Jump Chambers (Chi McBride) the head of a powerful gang as the one who took the diamonds.
- Grand Champ: Fait and Su visit Jump in prison, but he does not provide any details, but Fait and Su surmise the diamonds could be at his club. Fait, Daria and Miles go to the club to find the diamonds while Su and Archie search for the gangsters who took the diamonds at a MMA fight. MMA was at its infancy of its popularity when the movie came out, and the producers jumped on the bandwagon and featured future UFC champions Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, and Randy Couture. Fait’s crew gets attacked at the club and must flee, while Su gets inadvertently entered into the MMA fight and ends up taking on everyone at once. Jet Li is able to showcase is martial artistry and, despite his size and with a little help from some wires, provides a raucous fight scene.
- The Great Depression: When Ling finds out that Fait won’t give him the diamonds, he looks for leverage to get them back. Ling knows that despite being a master criminal, Fait is a family man at heart, only stealing to care for his young daughter Vanessa. Ling kidnaps Vanessa and throws her into Uncle Rico’s van with blacked out windows. When the crew goes back to the club to retrieve the diamonds, they are too late, Ling has already absconded with the booty. With no leads, the crew is lost, until Vanessa finds a cell phone in the van and is able to give some clues to Fait, just before the battery runs out, that she is held in a local airport hangar.
- Undisputed: Before heading to the hangar, the crew heads over to Archie’s to pick up supplies when Fait drops his no gun rule. When Fait gives up one of his criminal life tenets, he goes whole hog as the crew even procures a tank. A final battle loaded with hand to hand combat, gun play, helicopters, and the tank ensues with Vanessa being rescued and Ling swallowing the weaponized plutonium moments before its explosion resulting in his vaporization. I don’t think the Chairman was ever as disappointed with the secret ingredient for a battle as he was with weaponized plutonium. Allez cuisine! After taking out Ling and recovering the diamonds, Fait and his crew have decided to make changes in their lives. Of course, this will have to be after years in prison for all their crimes committed in this movie including stealing the diamonds in the first place, but luckily Su says he will put in a good word for them, even if that word is in broken English.
- Year of the Dog… Again: Cradle 2 the Grave ends the same way as Exit Wounds, with Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold, still in character making jokes, especially at the expense of Oprah, during the credits. This time they also talk about how the events that just took place would make for an exciting movie and who would star and direct. They are correct, it is an exciting early 2000’s action film, and you can take that 2 your grave… or 2 your cradle… or don’t take it anywhere.