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Cradle 2 The Grave

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The Matrix aside, there's something despairingly interchangeable about the rickety action vehicles Joel Silver has produced in the past few years. Cradle 2 The Grave is technically a new Jet Li/DMX movie, but if encountered on late-night cable television, it could easily be mistaken for Romeo Must Die (DMX, Li, Silver, and director Andrzej Bartkowiak's last film together) or Exit Wounds (which paired DMX with Steven Seagal). Following closely in the loud, obnoxious footsteps of those films, Grave casts DMX as a master thief who is also the doting father of a grating moppet. As the movie opens, he and his crew (Kangaroo Jack cut-up Anthony Anderson, Gabrielle Union, and Ruff Ryders hanger-on Drag-On) are in the midst of a high-stakes heist of priceless stones. Their plan hits more than a few snags, however, when direct-to-video fixture Mark Dacascos and his gang kidnap DMX's daughter, forcing him to join forces with Taiwanese government agent Jet Li. The rapper gets saddled with the bulk of Grave's most chortle-inducing lines, but it's unlikely any actor could have done much with the doggerel DMX is required to spout. The film seems to view dialogue as a regrettable means of getting cardboard characters from one flashy locale to another. Its creepy use of DMX's daughter is reprehensible, but the film is otherwise so unrelentingly sleazy that its use of the child-in-danger gambit actually qualifies as one of its subtler moves. DMX has threatened to stop making albums after his next release, and while it's doubtful that he'll make good on that threat, he'd be wise to stop making movies like this one as soon as possible.