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Film / Cradle 2 the Grave

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Cradle 2 the Grave is a 2003 action film directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak and starring Jet Li and DMX. Despite the title, it's not a sequel to anything.

The film opens with a gang of African American criminals composed of leader Anthony Fait (DMX) and his associates: girlfriend Daria (Gabrielle Union), and lackeys Tommy (Anthony Anderson) and Miles (Drag-On), performing a diamond heist, with particular emphasis on some black diamonds that their employer, Christophe (Paolo Seganti), is after. Alas, Taiwanese Intelligence Agent Su (Li), who is after the diamonds himself for unknown reasons, busts them. Despite this, Anthony manages to escape with the diamonds and bring them to a fence, Archie (Tom Arnold), for them to be appraised. That night, Christophe is murdered by henchmen of the man he was working for, Yao Ling (Mark Dacascos). Ling also sends some henchmen after Anthony, in search of the diamonds. Anthony and Su meet each other and are able to repel these henchmen, but then Anthony learns that Ling has kidnapped his daughter, Vanessa, and won't release her until he gets the diamonds. They then find that gangsters under the command of jailed crime boss "Jump" Chambers (Chi McBride) came to Archie, who possessed them, and took them. Anthony and Su decide to team up to get the diamonds and Vanessa back, in addition to uncovering why Ling and Chambers want the diamonds in the first place.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Dad: Both Fait and Su. Fait is a pretty good fighter despite lacking Su's martial arts training. Su mentions having a sixteen-year-old daughter of his own.
  • All for Nothing: The whole fight club/chase escapee turns out to be pointless as, while the protagonists get the info where the stones are, Yao Ling directly goes to Chambers and forces him to give him the location. Fait and Su arrive only minutes after Yao Ling retrieves them. If Vanessa hadn't cut herself free and used a cell to call Fait, they wouldn't have found her.
  • Auction of Evil: Once Ling gets the diamonds, he tries to sell them off at one of these.
  • Artistic License – Military: When describing the abilities of the diamonds a Sidewinder missile is described as having enough power to take out a tank. A Sidewinder is an air to air missile, not an anti-tank missile and would be unlikely to hurt a modern tank much in the unlikely event it hit one as modern air to air missiles destroy enemy aircraft with high velocity fragmentation warheads - which is something tank armor is explicitly designed to stop.
  • Asshole Victim: Yao Ling is no saint himself but two of the people he kills won't be eliciting any sympathy from the audience.
    • Chambers, a ruthless crime boss who coldly refuses Fait's pleas to help him get his daughter back.
    • Odion, who runs Chambers's night club and is a rival of Fait's. When he catches Fait trying to get the diamonds back, he calls the cops on him and mockingly tells him "enjoy the prison sex" as he is led away.
  • Bald of Authority: Fait is bald and is also the leader of his gang of thieves.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: The final battle between Su and Ling takes place in a Ring of Fire, similar to that in Romeo Must Die, by the same director and also starring Jet Li.
  • Big Bad: Yao Ling, an old nemesis of Su's and the one who brought the stones over as a small WMD. It's Fait stealing them that kickstarts the plot.
  • Bound and Gagged: Vanessa ends up getting her mouth, hands, and feet duct tapped after her first escape attempt. She manages to cut herself freed thanks to a diamond necklace her father had previously given her.
  • Child Hater: If the villains didn't make it clear how evil they were, when they get the stones back, they're relieved because Fait doesn't have anything to bargain with and can dispose of Vanessa later. With Sona even declaring "I hate kids".
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Su wears black clothes and dark sunglasses. His curb stomping of Miles gives the idea he will be a ruthless antagonist to the gang. However, it turns out he is a good guy who just wants to get the black diamonds back.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Daria and Ling's assistant Sona, both relatively minor characters, engage in one.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Attempted at the beginning by Daria during the heist, only the security guard turns out to be gay. Cue Anthony Anderson's character (who is supposed to be just the getaway driver) performing Daria's role. Apparently, the security guard is also a chubby chaser.
  • Fight Clubbing: Chambers owns an underground wrestling club. Archie and Su have to infiltrate it to find one of his Chamber associates to find out where the stones are, with Su forced to fight all of the competitors after he tries to leave his designated match which doesn't please the crowd or ringmaster.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Fait and Su come to respect if not like each other through working together to take down Yao Ling. Su promises to do what he can when Fait offers to turn himself in.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Su uses a dwarf as an impromptu weapon.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Vanessa gives one to some mook in an attempt to escape (see below), and Daria gives one to some creep in a club.
    • Anthony gives one to the same mook later in the film using a plane propeller.
  • I Have Your Wife: When Fait doesn't hand over the stones when asked, Yao Ling resorts to kidnapping his daughter to force him to. Naturally Fait is scared witless when he learns of this. Even worse, at one point the villains get the stones before Su and he do, losing their bargaining chip and their lead where to find her.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: Used it as part of a quadratic scale to measure the power of the WMD.
    Sidewinder missile; enough power to take out a tank. Tomahawk cruise missile; enough to destroy a building. SCUD; that's a few city blocks gone. Hiroshima... Two Hiroshimas... New World Order.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Su makes Yao Ling swallow a vial of synthetic plutonium, then strikes his neck to activate it, causing Yao Ling to disintegrate from the inside-out.
  • Hypothetical Casting: In-Universe. During the end credits, two of the comic-relief sidekicks have a conversation about who would play them if somebody made a movie of what just happened.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: The film's title is "Cradle to the Grave" with the "to" as the number 2.
  • Little Miss Badass:
    • Vanessa attempts to escape at one point by crying until one of the mooks lets her out of the van they're keeping her captive in, whereupon she kicks him in the nuts, steals the van's keys and tries to drive off. Sure, she fails (The van's windows were spray painted, so she couldn't see where she was going), but a pretty good effort for an 8 year-old girl.
    • She later jumps in and bites the hand of a mook who is attempting to choke out her dad.
  • MacGuffin: The black diamonds that Fait steals at the start of the movie. He thinks they're just valuable jewelry, but are really volatile rocks akin to plutonium that are considered WMDs. Su is trying to get them before Yao Ling does.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Fait and Su have to go visit Chambers, a notorious crime lord of the area, to get information on the stones. Chambers is in prison, but the place is decked out with electronics, throw rugs, exercise equipment, bead curtains and the like and he's served fine food. It might as well be a penthouse.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Daria. We get a scene of her cleavage early in the film and there is her strip tease to distract Odion.
  • No Sympathy: Fait tries to get Chambers to help him find where the stones are, explaining that his daughter was kidnapped. Chambers isn't moved however and just tells him to "Make another one". Likewise he scoff at his prison servant after Su instantly knocks him out when he tries to attack Fait.
  • Papa Wolf: Fait has this choice quote after kicking the crap out of the guy who was threatening his daughter:
    "Wrong! Kid! Definitely the wrong father."
  • Parallel Conflict Sequence: The climax has three battles going on at once: Su vs Yao Sing, Daria vs Sona and Fait trying to protect Vanessa from one of Yao Sing's men.
  • The Stinger: Ends with Archie and Tommy discussing who could play themselves in a movie based on their experiences, and who could direct it. They suggest Andrzej Bartkowiak, the director of the movie itself.
  • Tank Goodness: Doubles as a Chekhov's Gun, Archie shows Fait a tank he managed to procure at the start of the movie. In the climax, Archie and Tommy man it and crash the plane hanger where the auction is taking place to take care of the majority of Yao Ling's armed men. Also comes in handy in stopping Yao Ling from escaping in a helicopter.
  • Techno Babble: How the diamonds work is explained via this.
    Creating a highly reactive radioactive isotope requires altering the atomic structure of the original material. Normally, this is accomplished by adding neutrons. Here, we're using electromagnetic distillation to strip away protons. In the process, the fragment's potential yield is increasing exponentially. note 
  • Throat Light: Ling gets an impressive yellow aura from inside his oesophagus after Su shoved a burning diamond into his mouth.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Tommy, although not as heavy as in some movies. Averted with Anthony and the rest of his gang.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Su doesn't hold back with fighting Sona, only having to break off the battle when she gets a gun.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Yao Ling's men have no problem with manhandling Vanessa. Slapping her at one point and tying her up with duct tape. One of them even goes after her in the climax when there's no reason to do so other then spite.