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Introduction
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak is obviously a fan of rapper DMX and action star Jet Li. Both have previously been given roles in his movies, Jet Li in Romeo Must Die, and DMX in the very disappointing Exit Wounds. I suppose it should have been no great surprise when the duo were paired together for his latest action flick, Cradle 2 The Grave. Jet Li is a pretty safe bet for box office takings, but the inclusion of DMX must have raised a few eyebrows, especially considering that he was rumoured to be earning close to $5 million for his role in a movie which only had a budget of $25 million. I didn’t manage to catch the film at the cinema, so being a self-confessed action junkie I was keen to get my hands on this region two release to see if the director’s gamble had paid off. Read on to find out.

Cradle 2 The Grave
Movie
Cradle 2 The Grave centres around Tony Fait (DMX), a jewel thief who takes on more than he can handle when he leads his gang for a heist. The job involves raiding a local vault with the sole aim of looting some very rare black diamonds. After a tricky getaway, Tony realises that the job is not as straightforward as he first envisaged. Hot on his heels is a mysterious Taiwanese special agent named Stu (Jet Li), who has been assigned to find the diamonds before they get into the clutches of evil businessman Ling (Mark Dacascos).

Ling has hatched a devilish plan to sell the diamonds to world terrorists, who could then use them as a source for creating weapons of mass destruction. With money signs flashing in front of his eyes, Ling is not afraid to try any methods imaginable to obtain the diamonds, one of which includes kidnapping Fait’s daughter and holding her to ransom. I don’t think I am giving too much away by saying that the rest of the movie involves Fait teaming up with Stu in order to find his daughter, while saving the world in the process.

As you can see the plot is pretty unoriginal and contrived, and is obviously just a vehicle for some elaborate action stunts. The movie pinches several plotlines from other movies, but even so it seems to work to a certain extent. Cradle 2 The Grave is not the greatest action movie that I have seen (actually it doesn’t even come near to it), but it still easy viewing, and contains a few eye-pleasing action stunts to pass the time. The final third of the movie is pure action and builds up to one of Jet Li’s trademark final fight scenes, which is visually impressive and packs a mean punch!

Cradle 2 The Grave
One of the movie’s shortcomings is the acting. Now I have seen enough Jet Li movies to realise that he isn’t going to win any Oscars in the near future, and to be honest he isn’t really the culprit. I am a firm believer that singers very rarely make good actors; there are a few exceptions, Eminem being one of them, but I have to tell you that DMX’s performance here backups up my philosophy. His performance is nothing short of diabolical! Now that may sound harsh, but it seemed like he was trying too hard to be the new Vin Diesel and failed miserably! Cradle 2 The Grave is a mediocre no-brainer action movie, which is entertaining enough, but you probably won’t remember it a few weeks afterwards.    

Video
Warner Brothers have presented this movie with a 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer, which for the most part is pretty impressive. It is becoming increasingly difficult to criticise DVD transfers for recently released movies, and that is certainly the case here. Sharpness and levels of detail are everything you would expect from a recent Hollywood movie, and are in fact are first class. The print itself seemed free from obvious grain and showed no signs of dirt or blemishes. As for the colours, they were vibrant and rich, while at the same time black levels appeared solid. The only downfall in this transfer is the edge enhancements that were visible for the most part. Otherwise, Warner have once again shown that they are a major player when it comes to producing first class DVD transfers.

Audio
Warner have pulled out all the stops with the soundtracks on this disc. Not content to supply an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, they have also provided 5.1 tracks in  German and Spanish as well. Obviously not speaking German and Spanish I chose to deal with just the English soundtrack for this review. What Warner have produced here is a good all-round track, which laps up the pumping rap music that is played throughout, but also deals well with the elaborate action scenes. You name it: helicopters, car chases and fight scenes are all dealt with efficiently. Good use is made of the rears especially during some of the frantic chase scenes, where cars come whizzing past you with a good degree of accuracy. Great care has also been taken with the dialogue to ensure that it doesn't become muffled in some of the more active scenes. The menus are fully animated and show footage from the movie itself. As for subtitles they are provided in fourteen different languages.

Cradle 2 The Grave
Extras
As this is an action movie, it shouldn't come as a surprise to find several action-based featurettes on this disc. There are three in total, and the first is called Ultimate Fighting Champions. This featurette focuses solely on one of the major fight scenes in the movie. Joel Silver starts off this featurette by talking about the importance of this scene, and his opinion is backed up by other members of the crew. Jet Li also has some input into this featurette and gives a good insight into how fight scenes are put together. This featurette lasts for just under nine minutes and shows lots of footage from behind the scenes and also actual footage from the movie itself.

Action is once again at the forefront with a featurette called Choreography of the Camera, which concentrates on the final fight scene in the movie. What makes this extra stand out from your average featurette is the fact that you can view it from several different angles. There are three angles to choose from. A large part of this featurette is used to complement Jet Li, but there are also some very detailed discussions about how the final fight scenes were brought to the big screen. This featurette lasts for just over seven minutes and finishes with the whole final fight scene taken from the final cut.

The final featurette on this disc is called The Descender Rig, which covers in detail one of the action scenes taken from the beginning of the movie. This featurette is very similar to the previous featurettes, so if you enjoyed them chances are you will find this one interesting as well. This featurette is the shortest of the three and only lasts for two and a half minutes.

So far the extras have concentrated solely on Jet Li and action, so it was about time that DMX got involved. Next up is one of his music videos called X Gon' Give It to Ya, which lasts for three and a half minutes. The song is used as the background music for the DVD menus and is also heavily featured during one of the most frantic action scenes in the movie. I am not that familiar with DMX's music, but I found this track to be quite good.

Next up is a basic Cast & Crew, which only lists the people involved with the movie, and doesn't even cover the movies that they had been involved in previously. The final extra on this disc is the Theatrical Trailer, which starts off slowly, but then explodes into life and does a good job of promoting the movie. It never really tries to sell the movie as anything more than a no-brainer action film, but even so, if I had seen the trailer I might have been intrigued enough to see it at my local multiplex.

Cradle 2 The Grave
Overall
It's safe to say that Cradle 2 The Grave won't set the world of action movies alight, but what it will do is pass a few hours with the minimum of fuss. There are some pretty decent action scenes, throughout which are wrapped up inside a paper thin plot, so as to ensure that action is kept at the forefront. Warner have once again excelled as far as the visual and audio elements are concerned, but unfortunately the quality of extras is somewhat lacking. Apart from a few token action featurettes, there is very little else on offer. Your purchase of this disc will very much depend on how much of an action-junkie you are; if like me your DVD collection is full of action films then this will make a reasonable addition.  


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