Dig it! Cradle 2 Grave rocks
Biker Boyz was expected to be the black version of The Fast and the Furious, but it turned out to be a dud. Now here's the multiracial Cradle 2 the Grave, which is nonstop, fast and furious action from start 2 finish.
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak showed his ability to direct action movies in Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds, but they were just a warm-up for this one. The action scenes are far more coherent than in Exit Wounds, and while many of them are absurd, they're all entertaining and never dull.
Bartkowiak tends to keep using his favorite actors. DMX and Anthony Anderson have been in all three of his films, Jet Li and Tom Arnold in two out of three. I noted that the closing-credits comedy routine between Anderson and Arnold in Exit Wounds deserved an encore, and it gets one here, so don't jump up when the credits start.
The trick is to work in a plot to tie all the action together and Cradle 2 the Grave manages to do that. It concerns some black stones everybody's fighting over. In the opening sequence, Tony Fait's (DMX) gang, including Andrews and Gabrielle Union, breaks into the jewelry exchange to steal them, but Taiwanese cop Su (Li) finds out and tries to intercept them because "the stones belong to Taiwan."
At least two other factions are interested. There's the criminal who is "in on everything that goes down in this town," even though he's currently living in a luxurious prison cell. His people steal the rocks from Tony. And there's Ling (Mark Dacascos), Su's old adversary from Taiwan. His people steals Tony's eight-year-old daughter to make Tony turn the jewels over to him.
Su and Tony start out fighting each other, but they have to become a team to recover both the stones and the girl. They have help from Archie (Arnold), a fence. (Would you buy a used tank from this man?) Along the way, Su gets into a cage match with a dozen or so fierce opponents at once, Tony is chased on an ATV by a dirt bike racer and half the cops in L.A., Union does a strip and fights Ling's moll (Kelly Hu), and Andrews creates a diversion by flirting with a male security guard. (It was going to be Union's job until she saw the guy reading a gay magazine.)
Tony has a "no-gun policy" for his gang, but it's rescinded for the climax. He's a slugger, while Su hardly breaks a sweat in most of his fights, or when he goes Spider-Manning down the outside of a building.
If there's a problem, it's with the frequent, trendy crosscutting between the action scenes, usually three at a time. Especially in the case of the climactic battle between Li and Dacascos, it would be nice to see it straight through instead of constantly cutting away to two simultaneous fights. Perhaps the DVD will offer that option.
If action's your thing, Cradle 2 the Grave scores with both quality and quantity. It sure kicks Daredevil's ass.