Cradle 2 the Grave

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Loren Eaton

Movie Review

A diamond is forever. Especially a black diamond. Never heard of one? Neither had professional thief Tony Fait, who stumbled upon the jewels while pulling off the heist of his life. He and his associates Daria and Tommy just ripped off the New York Diamond Exchange to the tune of, well, whatever those black diamonds are worth. You see, neither Tony nor his fence Archie have a clue as to their value. But Su, a Taiwanese intelligence official with a secret grudge, does. And so does shadowy underworld figure Ling, who will stop at nothing—murder and torture included—to get them. In fact, before you can say De Beers, Ling has abducted Tony’s 8-year-old daughter, Vanessa. The deal is simple: Ling gets the gems and Tony gets the girl. But could the stones be something much more than valuable trinkets? Say, secret weapons of mass destruction? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Forced to band together and confront Ling, Tony and Su must solve the mystery while cracking as many skulls as possible.

positive elements: Tony is an affectionate father who cares deeply for Vanessa. Jewels and profit mean nothing to him once Ling kidnaps her. Daria and Tommy display remarkable loyalty to Tony, sticking with him through every circumstance. At the end of the film Tony’s crew pledges to eschew further criminal activity and go straight.

spiritual content: Whenever Daria, Tommy and Tony face a difficult situation, they repeat the word “faith” to each other. Several times during the film Tony recites a short prayer for his daughter in which he asks angels at the four corners of the globe to protect her while she rests (a prayer that alludes to a description given in Revelation 7:1). When he successfully rescues Vanessa, he states, “I’m so glad the angels kept you safe.”

sexual content: In a couple of situations Tommy and Daria use sexual manipulation to distract people while Tony breaks into buildings to steal. In a lengthy conversation, Tommy teases a homosexual guard with ribald come-ons (including comments about penis size and sadomasochism). One utterly misogynistic scene features Daria stripping for a mark and preparing to perform fellatio (audiences see side breast nudity and extended rear shots of her wearing only lacy underwear). When the man suddenly realizes that Daria’s erotic show is only a diversion, he brutally strikes her in the face, knocking her to the ground. Other scenes include a gangster eyeing a copy of Hustler magazine, talk of prostitution and prison rape, sarcastic comments about cleavage, crude sexual slang and lots of immodest clothing.

violent content: Think of Cradle 2 the Grave’s martial arts action as having all the over-the-top chop-socky action of a Jackie Chan movie, but with gore. Bones shatter. Combatants bleed. All kinds of props become lethal weapons. Alleys, prison cells, posh apartments, landing strips and other locales turn into battlegrounds. Su uses his violent prowess to extract information from unwilling parties. One bloody scene shows a barely-breathing man (with a ruptured eye) suspended by a belt tied around his neck. He’s later drowned in an aquarium. A gangster COLOR=”#ff0000″> is stabbed to death with a steel tine. Tony tears through the city on wild car chases. Audiences at illegal cage fighting matches hold up plastic sheeting to keep themselves from being spattered with blood. During a bout seemingly yanked from the script of Austin Powers in Goldmember, Su grabs a foul-mouthed little person and uses him to beat away assailants. Archie tortures a man with a stun gun (off-screen). When assaulted by an earring-wearing brute, Su rips the ring from his head, spraying blood on the ground. Large caliber machine-gun fire cuts a man down, while a woman gets blasted at point-blank range with an Uzi. A man is burned to death from the inside out when a radioactive ingot is shoved down his throat.

crude or profane language: The s- and f-word crop up about 40 times each. Lesser profanities bring the total close to 120. Crudities and racial slurs make matters even worse. God and Jesus’ names get abused a half-dozen times. Obscenity-laden tracks by hip-hop acts such as Eminem, Clipse and—of course—DMX add even more noise to an already messy movie.

drug and alcohol content: While alcoholic beverages reside on quite a few shelves in posh, thugged-out residences, characters only imbibe occasionally. A number of relatively minor characters smoke cigarettes and cigars.

other negative elements: True to the hip-hop ethos that allows rappers to praise Jesus one moment and boast about offing rivals the next, Tony is portrayed sympathetically as a fervently praying, child-adoring ruffian. It seems that audiences are supposed to like him since he hugs Vanessa and gives her sparkling diamond jewelry (stolen, of course). The problem should be obvious. No matter how “kind” and “noble” Tony occasionally behaves, a few good actions can’t negate all of his criminal ones. A point that some viewers may miss amid all the hyperkinetic hullabaloo.

conclusion: Cradle 2 the Grave delivers lots of slickly choreographed machismo backed by a thumping soundtrack. It also unloads buckets of obscenity, shovelfuls of gore and an awful instance of sexualized violence. Of course, savvy filmgoers realize that a movie in which a gangsta rapper and a martial arts expert receive top billing won’t be heavy on dialogue and plot. There’s no doubt that the presence of the ultra-popular, foul-mouthed DMX helped propel this film to the top of the Box Office opening weekend. Some parents might not be familiar with the career of Earl Simmons, aka Dark Man X, but their teens certainly are. DMX boasted on his last album, The Great Depression, “How many million did my last [record] sell? [Expletive], I’m goin’ for 10. It’s never gonna stop.” Now his self-proclaimed “domination” is spreading to celluloid. Make sure your family members aren’t citizens of his expanding entertainment kingdom.

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Loren Eaton