The latest Jet Li action vehicle relies on kicks and a pair of panties
What can you say about an action flick where, rather than just taking an elevator up to some dude’s room and kicking the tar outta him, Jet Li goes to the roof, vaults over the ledge and using only his hands proceeds to drop balcony to balcony down until he reaches the right room, then proceeds with the ass-whooping? Right, you’ve got yet another actioner more concerned with spectacle than the logical. But is it fun? Sure, forgettable but fun. And it has Gabrielle Union. Not enough Gabrielle (well, aside from one scene where she distracts a baddie with a lap dance). But hey, anything helps.
The story (such as it is) involves an international scramble to lay hands on a bag of “black diamonds.” It seems that a crack team of high-tech jewel thieves (DMX, Union, Anthony Anderson, and some other guy in this corner) were commissioned to swipe a bag of black diamonds from a high-security vault. Unfortunately, they entrust wisecracking fence Tom Arnold to hold the hot rocks, and he proceeds to lose them to some gang of thugs after the word gets out around the ‘hood. Meanwhile, Taiwanese agent Li wanders through to help out when DMX’s daughter gets snatched by an evil arms broker who holds her under threat of death until he coughs up the stones. Turns out that the diamonds are actually a form of synthesized weapons grade plutonium swiped from Taiwan, and Li’s been sent to kick some Yankee ass and bring ’em back.
Li’s so good at kicking ass that he generally just stands around with his hands in pockets, blocking blows with his feet until his attackers fall down out of exhaustion—although at one point he beats on a bunch of pissed-off dudes using only a seriously unhappy midget. OK, I’m getting a headache trying to put the pieces back together, which really isn’t the point of an action flick anyways, right? It’s all about the asskicking and the explosions and the car chases, and Cradle 2 the Grave serves up heaping amounts of all of that. And Union’s lap dance.
Unfortunately, director Andrzej Bartkowiak is so camera happy that he diffuses any excitement to be derived from Li’s asskicking skills, going all ninja with the editing and zooming in for tight shots of Li’s impassive face when he should just hang back and document the master mopping the floor with various recalcitrants. Add to that a climactic showdown that involves not one, not two, but three duels to the death (as Arnold rolls about in a tank popping off rounds), and the effect is numbing, not exciting. Of course, that’s just nitpicking.
On the plus side, the flick gets props (word) for having a sly sense of humor about itself (Li’s character is named Su, without bludgeoning the audience with the reference), Tom Arnold is actually amusing for a change, police cars crash and things blow up, and Union gets down to her scanties. You can do worse at the multiplex.