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Cradle 2 the Grave Reviews

Soulless, sleekly executed product with something for everyone: rap stars, martial arts, sexy girls, lethal hardware, wisecracking comic relief, a touch of terrorism and a blatant appeal to the sentimental sap in every action buff. Professional thieves Tony Fait (DMX), Miles (Drag-On), Tommy (Anthony Anderson) and Daria (Gabrielle Union) pull off a spectacular jewel heist for Eurotrash buyer Christophe (Paolo Seganti), only to lose half the take to a Taiwanese tough guy named Su (Jet Li). The rest of the gems — a cache of 50 ultra-rare black diamonds — are stolen from jack-of-all-scams Archie (Tom Arnold), whom Tony asks to determine their value after Christophe is murdered and some unidentified heavies start calling to claim the stones are rightfully theirs. Before Tony can begin to make sense of the situation, it gets worse. The callers, Asian mercenaries led by Ling (Mark Dacascos) and Sona (Kelly Hu), kidnap Tony's little girl (Paige Hurd). Tony must reluctantly join forces with Su, who turns out to be a cop trying to recover the gems on behalf of the Taiwanese government, to find the missing loot and rescue his beloved daughter. In the process, many asses get kicked, much stuff blows up and the black diamonds turn out to be something far more sinister than exotic baubles. Briskly paced and thoroughly anonymous, the film's greatest liability is that it stars a world-class martial artist and never slows down long enough to let us see what he can do. This miscalculation is endemic to American action directors (former cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak is Polish by birth, but his craft was made in the USA), who don't trust straightforward martial arts sequences to hold the attention of hyperactive viewers weaned on video games and channel surfing. So they trick up the fight scenes (choreographed here by the estimable Corey Yuen) with rapid-fire cuts, flashy camera moves and special effects. The sequence in which a reluctant Su is forced to participate in an ultimate-fighting match and finds himself in a cage taking on successive waves of bare-knuckled bruisers, could be a visceral kick. Instead, it's a muddled mess whose highpoint is a cheap visual gag: Li hurling pint-sized Martin Klebba at an advancing crowd of thugs. Overall, the scene has so little feel of physical reality that it might as well be animated.