Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

I was not a big fan of the previous attempt at a film adaptation of our favorite bald and bar-coded assassin in 2007's Hitman. It felt too much as though the writers were trying to develop 47 into a character quite unlike the one seen in the games. An example of this was the scene where Timothy Olyphant's Agent 47 reads a magazine article about animal mating in order to learn something about human women. It is true that 47 is not simply a rabid killing machine totally lacking conscience; we see his attempt at living a peaceful life at the beginning of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. However, this does not mean he is also attempting to settle down and have a family. That is just not him. Neither is 47 a curious adolescent trying to learn more about human sexuality. This scene simply didn't fit with the character and was written by someone seemingly unfamiliar with the games.

Fortunately, Hitman: Agent 47 improves upon the previous movie in this respect and is enjoyable for what it is. They do not attempt to engage in much character development of 47: he is an assassin, he is very good at what he does, and he was a clone bred to be a killer. (Which reminds me of another indication that the writers of the previous movie were unfamiliar with the games: there is a fight scene between 47 and other agents who happened to be ethnically diverse, which makes no sense as they are supposed to be clones.) But the improvement is only slight. It still feels like a rather generic action movie. What I would really like to see out of a Hitman film adaptation are the distinctive aspects of the series' gameplay. In other words, fewer shootouts and more creative smuggling of weapons where they are prohibited, over-the-top disguises, and elaborate assassination plots (perhaps of morbidly obese mob bosses). Hitman is (supposedly) a stealth game after all, and the films should reflect that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Movie Review: The Transporter Refueled (2015)

My principal concern going into The Transporter Refueled was the replacement of Jason Statham with this non-Statham guy, Ed Skrein. I was right to be concerned, in a way. Skrein is truly a nothing actor. He has none of the childish charisma of Statham. Sure, things happen to him, but his reactions to them aren't particularly interesting, dramatic, or humorous. Thankfully, though, the things happening to him are much more fun than most contemporary action films. In this reboot of the series, Frank Martin (boring-ass Skrein) is busy transportin' stuff in France when his hip old man comes for a visit. Instead of bonding with his father as planned, Frank instead takes a job as a getaway driver for four mysterious women looking to rob a bank. They have plans of their own for Frank, however; his father is held hostage until Frank agrees to help them assassinate a Russian gangster.

Now, this is not a bad premise for an action film, but the first thirty minutes or so almost derail the whole thing. Most of this is attributable to the bland performance of Skrein, as he sourfaces his way through the introductory and characterization bits of Act I. It all gets much better once he is forced to take the job "offered" by the lady assassins. Refueled reminded me of the quality, middle-budget martial arts films that were staples of the Code Redd Net diet in the old Geocities days: Transporters 1 and 2, obviously, but also Jet Li's Unleashed (2005), for example. Once the exposition is finished, Refueled is blessedly short and lean, and the non-entity of Skrein is subsumed by the generally excellent fight scenes and car chases. There are several beautifully absurd action sequences in unusual spaces, such as a car chase through an airport terminal, and a precision missile dropkick delivered through a car window. The choreography is delightfully shaky-cam free, too. All this is to say that while Refueled is certainly not in the same league as Transporters 1 and 2, especially the boring stuff at the beginning, it's still a solid reminder of what action cinema can be.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

PS2 Review: The Bouncer (2001)

It's difficult to make sense of The Bouncer. It looks like an ordinary 3D beat-'em-up, which is commendable enough given that the genre has been rendered practically obsolete since the SNES and Genesis generation. I like having games like this around, mostly because I like pulverizing proper nouns on the streets, even when the games themselves are at their most mediocre. However, in many ways The Bouncer isn't much of a beat-'em-up at all. In fact, according to the marketing this is more of a "playable action movie" than a straightforward brawler. It may be a cliche, but The Bouncer is truly neither fish nor fowl: far too vapid to be an action movie (think about that for a moment), and far too complex and involved with storytelling to be a satisfyingly mindless beat-'em-up. Simply put, The Bouncer tries to do too much and succeeds at very little.

The Bouncer has one of the most insipid "stories" I have ever played. Most beat-'em-ups, like Streets of Rage or Fighting Force, have the good taste and common decency to save you the trouble of worrying about characters and their relationships. Instead, they essentially tell you, "Some hoodlums have taken over the streets of our fair city, and they're evil, so please, go out there and beat the dog crap out of them and don't come back until you do." It does the job for me. That's all the motivation I need. But The Bouncer tries to impress you with the cinematic. From a technical standpoint, it actually succeeds. Given its age, it still looks and sounds pretty good. In terms of narrative, however, it stinks. Without looking it up, I can only recall a girl being kidnapped by oddly-dressed thugs, and our equally oddly-dressed bar bouncer heroes going out to save her from being turned into a cyborg kind of thing by some bozo running the evil Mikado corporation. There's also something in there about satellites and solar energy, I think. You spend the rest of the game getting acquainted with others who have also made numerous fashion faux pas. An idiotic premise, for sure, but that's not what gets to me.

The Fashion of The Bouncer. Good gracious.
What gets to me is the laborious way in which that story is presented. My first trip through the game took approximately an hour and a half, about an hour of which was seemingly spent on watching the cinematics. They either go on forever or they are pointlessly short, like the numerous three second clips of the characters running through doorways. Every utterance, every development in the narrative is just, like, So What? Who Cares? and also, You Left the House Dressed Like That, Do You Not Have Friends or Mirrors? The Bouncer has multiple pathways through the story depending on which character you choose and when, but none of them are exciting, even though one of them is a thoroughly bizarre "stealth" mission.

This interminable story ruins what is otherwise a decent beat-'em-up engine: deep enough to keep most fights interesting, but easy to learn (though a counter button would have been nice). Basically, you watch and then you briefly fight, level up your characters, watch then briefly fight, level up your characters, and so on. Luckily, you have the option of using characters unlocked in the Story mode to play either Survival or Versus. Survival isn't much better than Story, mostly because it quickly becomes alternatively tedious and cheap. Versus is your typical multiplayer mode, and it supports up to four players, human or CPU. It redeems the game somewhat, but not enough to recommend it for anyone other than the most starved beat-'em-up fans.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Transporter Refuelled (2015) Trailer

Pardon us while we remodel the site. In the meantime, enjoy this trailer for the rebooted Transporter franchise.

I don't know how to feel about this one. Transporter 3 was all kinds of awful, of course, but I'm not sure I would've hit the reset button so hard.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

PS1 Review: NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC (1999)

What an ungainly title. NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC is another in the long line of NBA Jam derivatives, which includes Midway "sequels" like Hangtime (1997) and Hoopz (2001, and quite fun to spell, incidentally). Despite the name change, all three of these games play pretty much the same, although each introduces its own wrinkles to the core design. The NBA Jam formula just works, and for a variety of reasons, but of the tweaks or updates (outside of the annual roster update) offered by the various versions, Showtime happens to be the best of the lot. Everything is about the same as before, only smoother, more polished: you get 2 on 2 ball, most of the rules get relaxed if not removed, physics get exaggerated, and so on. Showtime introduces a foul system, however, which initially seems like an odd fit for the kind of no-holds-barred style of this or previous Jams. Basically, a foul is assessed each time you shove an opponent. Play remains uninterrupted until you earn your fifth foul, at which point your opponent is then allowed to shoot a free throw (worth three points) and retain control of the ball. This introduces a fairly subtle bit of strategy into the otherwise manic gameplay of the series. Foul your opponent for the fifth time late in the game, for instance, and you may find yourself on the wrong side of a six point swing. It's a small change, but at the same time it does quite a lot to change the dynamic of offense and defense, particularly down the stretch. As with all Jam iterations, Showtime can likewise get a bit repetitive if you play it for any significant duration, but in short bursts, and particularly with friends, it's terrific.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the more cosmetic changes of Showtime. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about the old NBA on NBC theme, especially (actually, more likely solely) for those of us who grew up with the peacock's Sunday afternoon matinees. In comparison with its arcade version, or even its Dreamcast and N64 cousins, Showtime for the PS1 clearly loses a bit in the looks department. This is particularly noticeable in the player models which, while understandably polygonal for the time, fail to accurately render most of the players' faces. They all look a bit mangled. However, player animations are almost uniformly excellent. I should also mention the generally terrible roster. This was not a particularly lively time for fans of the association. You're looking at a league post-Jordan, consumed by labor disputes, and pre-LeBron. "Slim pickings" is probably the kindest way to describe the squads available. Thankfully, you can create your own player, and although you can develop that player into a superstar by defeating every team in the league, this is no career mode. It's essentially no different from the game's other main mode, in which you run through every team in the league with only the players made available to you on a particular squad. No career mode, no season mode, nothing else. As a single-player experience, then, Showtime is lacking in longevity. As an isolated, multiplayer experience, Showtime is the best of the bunch.

Monday, April 6, 2015

PS2 Review Double Feature: Smuggler's Run (2000) and Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory (2001)

Hey, why not. I'll do these together. I can't think of a particularly good reason to do them separately.

Smuggler's Run (2000)

The first Smuggler's Run was something else, especially when it was released as part of the PS2 launch. I say "was" because, as you can probably surmise, not everything about it has aged well. It doesn't look great, it doesn't always play great, and it doesn't move you with an involving narrative (it doesn't even really have one). You're a smuggler, and you smuggle things, and there's really nothing more to it than that. You have big (for the time) open worlds set on the US/Canada and US/Mexico borders in which to smuggle the goods. Now, there's a bit of plot from the menu that introduces each mission, read by an irritating narrator with an especially juvenile sense of sexuality, but essentially it means the same thing as the plot of the original TimeSplitters (2000), which is to say it means nothing, or just about. Actually, Smuggler's Run and TimeSplitters have more in common than such easy-going narratives: essentially, Smuggler's is nothing more than a series of deathmatches with cars (actually more like BagTag, for all you TS fans out there). You pick up packages and deliver them, or you and a team do the same, or you have an inexplicable checkpoint race with rival gangs. It's more like an arcade game than anything else. You pick up packages by driving over them, and you can steal or transfer them by slamming into other cars. It works quite well as mindless, almost anti-narrative horseplay, but like any arcade game, it can get more than a bit repetitive if you play it for too long. And more often than not, Smuggler's is incredibly frustrating and difficult, especially the latter half of the game (another similarity to TimeSplitters). Despite the difficulty, however, I enjoyed the way in which Smuggler's allows you to create your own route to mission completion. Smuggler's Run is a meat and potatoes kind of game. It does the job without a whole lot of panache.

Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory (2001)

This is more like it. Smuggler's Run 2 is an improvement on the original in every way possible. This one not only has an actual story, but live-action cut-scenes with real actors and everything. They're silly as hell and probably not in a good way, but I appreciate the effort. You play as a guy who works for another guy who works freelance for some bad people with some bad goods to move. This takes you to Russia and then to Vietnam, then back to Russia for Winter Russia. Several things make this game much better than its predecessor: it looks fantastic, the worlds are bigger and the terrain is more varied, and the difficulty has been toned down to what I consider to be a reasonable level. There's still an annoying glitch carried over from Smuggler's 1, in which your pursuers' vehicles seem to be magnetized to your rear bumper. This can be a real drag because they more often than not spin you out of control, which is really frustrating when you're on the clock and racing to the next checkpoint (which is always the case). 2's missions are much better and more varied than the original as well. As before, 2 can get repetitive if you persist in playing it for too long, but for short bursts of fun, it really is one of the best arcade-style racing games on PS2.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Movie Review: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Evidently Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is "widely considered" (that's a fun thing to say) to be one of the worst films on this, or really any other, planet. Wikipedia has it on a prestigious list of "films considered the worst" by "reputable critics." While my dedication to reviewing numerous Jean-Claude Van Damme films, as well as nonsense like this, may lead some of you to believe I enjoy pain, honestly I trust no one, least of all "reputable critics." To be sure, this film is hideous and stupid, but it's far from one of the worst. I just had to see it for myself.

Two agents, one a family man/divorcee/chain smoker FBI agent (that would be Ecks) and the other a cold-hearted assassin/mother/ex- or current government agent of another kind/maybe? (Sever), seem to dislike each other for a general (as opposed to a particular) reason. They must work together to keep a kind of biomechanical device, floating around in the bloodstream of a child, out of the hands of other government agents/corrupt assholes/who? I'm not sure who's working for whom in this one. I'm not sure what the biomechanical device does besides something bad. In fact, I'm not sure what really goes on in Ballistic. I'm not sure the producers or the marketing people did either. I suspect nobody does or did. Please read through the following synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:
"Two former government agents square off as they search for the most deadly new weapon on Earth in this white-knuckle thriller. Sever (Lucy Liu) was once a top agent with the Defense Intelligence Agency, but she quit when her son was killed in a bungled raid organized by Gant (Gregg Henry), and has sworn to take vengeance against him and his colleagues. When Sever learns that Gant and his team are in possession of a remarkable new weapon -- a microscopic device injected into the victim's bloodstream which is benign until triggered, then kills immediately without leaving a trace -- she is determined to get her hands on it, whatever the cost. However, Gant has turned rogue, and FBI agent Julio Martin (Miguel Sandoval) has been ordered to find him and recover his new weapon. Martin needs the best man he can find for the job, and calls upon Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas), a former FBI tracker, to do the job. Ecks quit the Bureau when his wife was killed, but Martin informs Ecks that his spouse is actually alive and in hiding, and if he can bring in Gant, she will be returned to him. But Ecks has to face the most formidable adversary of his life in Sever, a master of mayhem bent on revenge."
lolz, don't work for the government, I guess. At best you'll have a hard time identifying where and with whom you work, let alone actually getting things done, saving children, capturing rogue elements, all that.

Ballistic is the kind of thing I would've liked (probably not loved, but certainly liked) when I was 13, so there were moments in this film that I enjoyed very much. Sever's shootout with the cops is serviceable enough for action cinema, although Ecks and Sever's titular showdown on a rooftop turns out to be a big ruse (more like Ballistic: Ecks and Sever, right?). Ballistic may be bland, but it has the good taste to be short and moronic, and those are the hallmarks of inoffensive cinema. Look, people get chased and cars get flipped over and secret agent-y things get done and Banderas smokes a bunch. It's filmed in a way that doesn't hurt your ear or eye holes to watch. Is it especially stimulating, revelatory, educational, beautiful? No. Is it one of the worst films around? Hardly. It's bad, but it's not that bad.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Classic Li: Romeo Must Die (2000)

More Li, more DMX (but only a little bit more). Classic Li rolls on with Romeo Must Die, one of Jet's highest-profile projects.

Romeo Must Die is supposed to be loosely based on Shakespeare's play. It is, kind of, only in the sense that most tragic love stories are more or less like Shakespeare's play. Of course, this one isn't much of a tragedy, but it does have sweethearts caught in the middle of a turf war between rival gangs of different races, and their love is forbidden because of it, so you can see how it fits the Romeo and Juliet model. After his brother his killed in the US, Jet escapes from a prison in Hong Kong to avenge him. While hotwiring a taxi, he meets and is all smitten with Aaliyah, the daughter of a crime boss in Oakland who wants to be the first black owner in the NFL or something. Jet and Aaliyah bat eyelashes at each other and try to figure out what's really going on between the factions. What happens next? Why, hip hop and wire fu and love, that's what.

Like Cradle 2 the Grave (and to a lesser extent Exit Wounds), this one gives a lot of time to the drama and only a little to the action, at least until the end of the film. For the most part, I don't mind so much drama because the relationship between Jet and Aaliyah is totally believable. They're cute together and the scenes between them seem natural, remarkable given the inexperience of Aaliyah and a still new-to-Hollywood Jet Li. This is also why the ending to Romeo Must Die is one of the most unsatisfying in all of cinema. If you've seen the film, you know what I mean. It's all wrong. Nonetheless, there's a few standout fights in this one, especially Jet's football game and his tag-team maneuvers with Aaliyah (incidentally, they put a beating on Nancy from Rumble in the Bronx). Things do slow down considerably in the middle of the film, but like Cradle 2 the Grave and Exit Wounds, most of the action is saved for the finale. Romeo Must Die is a Hollywood film, though, so the excessive qualities of Jet Li's Hong Kong films are tempered quite a bit in favor of dialogue. While this is a slick package with plenty of production values going for it, as well as a believable romantic sub-plot (a rare thing in a kung fu movie), this is also a bit cursory in terms of action. Romeo Must Die works well as an introduction to Jet Li, but he made much better films, both before and after.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Classic Li: The Warlords (2007)

Though questionable as a Jet Li classic, The Warlords is currently available on Netflix and thus provides a readily available movie review. This film is much unlike Li's other work, only sparingly displaying his skills as a martial artist. It does, however, present an interesting tale of Chinese history, but might require supplemental contextual understanding to be fully appreciated.
The Warlords is a story about Pang (Jet Li), a general in the imperial army during the 1860s, when the Ming Dynasty was trying to put down the Taiping rebellion. We find Pang the sole survivor of a battle with the rebels, finding his way to a village where a kindly woman named Lian takes him in and feeds him (and makes happy time in bed, too). The next day he meets a bandit named Jiang, who introduces him to his brother Zhao (who happens to be the significant other of Lian). Taiping rebels raid their village that night and kill an elderly villager. The next day, the imperial army looks for recruits among the villagers, who are desperate for both protection and sustenance. Pang, Jiang, and Zhao decide to form a blood pact and attack a convoy to prove to the commanders of the imperial army that they are able to defeat much bigger forces and ask for troops to help them do so. Therein begins their military campaign that occupies the majority of the film.

What was particularly interesting to me about this film was the narrative that I thought it was presenting but then appeared to alter later in the story. Particularly after the attempted recruitment of the recovering villagers and the appeal by Pang to the imperial army officers (who appeared to be old men who had never seen combat themselves), I was prepared for a war story told from the perspective of those who populate army ranks: the poor and lower classes who have no better options. We immediately sympathize with them, as they are only trying to eek out a meager agricultural living in the Chinese countryside and have nothing to do with the wars between the Ming Dynasty and the rebels. They are put in an unenviable situation, where by joining the army they might prevent further devastation to their village by rebels, but are subservient to a political class that has done no apparent thing to earn their allegiance (other than conquering other peoples, taking their stuff, and being able to offer these villagers protection. They are like a mafia on a large scale).

Thus, the blood pact brothers' effort, along with other villagers, to defeat the Taiping rebels in order to bring lasting peace seems noble, but we still have at the back of our minds that though their early victories seem empowering (if not downright glorious, thus leading me to question the "war is hell and fought by the poor for the benefit of the rich"narrative), they remain subservient to the imperial political classes no matter what. Thus, any military victory they secure tastes bittersweet to the audience and we are not fully able to partake in them. (Furthermore, we are not informed of the grievance of the Taiping rebels, which may as well be large and justified considering the costs they are willing to bear to fight the empire.)

In the end, what I thought would be an inspiring tale of common men managing to beat the system and not be relegated to fodder for the empire, turned out to be a story that is not unfamiliar to us today; that is, warfare waged by pawns at the behest of the powerful.

P.S. But, if it was historically accurate, of which I have my doubts, then the result is unsurprising. But it makes me wonder what significance this story holds in Chinese folklore and whether the revolutionary undertones of the film that I perceived are part of that folklore.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

PS3 Review: Sleeping Dogs (2012)

There's probably three quality martial arts video games out there on consoles: our beloved Rise to Honor is the best, while Jackie Chan's Stuntmaster is a distant third. Sleeping Dogs is second best, but it's a well-deserved second place.

Rise to Honor is still tops for martial arts video games, but Sleeping Dogs is a very close second. You play as an undercover cop named Wei Shen, tasked with infiltrating a Triad organization. Honestly, there's not much to say about the narrative. It's a pretty typical Hong Kong detective story, but it's solid and performed well. You won't be surprised by Wei Shen's moral dilemmas, his loyalty to the badge conflicting with his growing admiration for his fellow gangbangers. It's been done three thousand times before. You bet it's formulaic, but it works just the same. I felt the same way about Rise to Honor: the formulaic story is actually reassuring and convenient, because you don't have to do a lot of work to figure out what's going on, you just get to fight some fools and it all feels familiar. Unlike Rise, this one is much more of a sandbox kind of game. Certainly, narrative events frame everything you do, but there's a considerable amount of freedom between missions in which you can level up your kung fu, participate in some street races, buy clothes, gamble, and so on. Sleeping Dogs pushes you to complete the primary tasks in a number of ways, but there's always time made available to you for dating or swimming in the polluted waters of Hong Kong or whatever else you want to do.

Wei's Rumble in the Bronx uniform. Not pictured: the empty
Game Gear given to that dumb kid by Jackie.
Combat in Sleeping Dogs is very similar to combat in the Arkham Asylum series. It's fluid and intuitive, and the animations between moves are super smooth. It's no match for the rhythm of combat in Rise to Honor in terms of controls, but there's plenty to love about it nonetheless. You can throw suckas off roofs or chuck them into garbage bins, similar in many ways to the interactive environments in Jet's game. Dogs does have Rise beat in terms of gunplay, however, and driving around Hong Kong is equally solid. Honestly, I have no idea if Dogs is an accurate representation of the area, but it looks great and the different districts of the city are clearly distinguishable from each other. As usual with sandbox games, you're only left with a bunch of relatively meaningless tasks once you complete the main portion of the game, but you can unlock a bunch of outfits for Wei to wear from classic kung fu movies, and you can always play through the story again. If you groove on martial arts cinema, Sleeping Dogs is perfect for you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Movie Review: Exit Wounds (2001)

Consider this a slight detour or offshoot from our ongoing Classic Li series. Exit Wounds is like Cradle 2 the Grave, except with Steven Seagal instead of Jet. Same director, same DMX drama skillz.

Once again, cops, martial arts, and hip hop butt heads. This time a white detective played by Seagal is demoted to beat cop following an attack on the vice prez. He doesn't play by the rules, you see, and solves crimes with his unusually direct approach to law enforcement. Our favorite renegade police officer is relegated to service in a particularly nasty precinct in Detroit, and from there his new chief orders him to take classes in anger management. This makes no sense because Seagal's character never really demonstrates any significant symptoms of rage. He keeps beating people up or shooting them because they keep trying to rob or murder him. He's an unlucky bastard, not an angry one. In fact, outside of an incident in which he breaks a school desk because he's such a large man, he's a pretty cool customer overall. One night, while bumming around town in his pickup truck, he stumbles upon a heroin deal. This leads him to discover a drug smuggling conspiracy involving several of his fellow police officers. DMX seems to be involved with the smuggling, but you know, all is not what it seems, nobody can be trusted, loyalties will be tested, and so on.

Exit Wounds is nowhere near as good as Cradle 2 the Grave. Not that C2G is high art or anything, but Jet Li is so superior to Seagal, and DMX has a much larger role in that one than he does here. I've only seen Seagal in a few films, but his brand of martial arts is fairly deliberate, and in that sense it doesn't work nearly as well for me cinematically as does Jet's faster and more intricate maneuvers. Honestly, he's a big, humorless oaf and he's boring. He doesn't do it for me, but DMX sure does. Unfortunately, DMX doesn't have much to do in this one. For most of the film, he only buys expensive cars, drives around listening to his own music, visits his boys in prison, wears tank tops, and buys drugs. Seagal carries most of the film, and it suffers. DMX has more to do in the second half of the film, particularly the last half hour. Like Cradle, this film has an entertaining finale. It's entertaining enough to save Exit Wounds from being a total loss. While Seagal engages in a nonsensical sword fight, DMX ties his belt to a shotgun and uses it to fire from behind cover. It's lovingly absurd, but there's too little of this kind of thing to make it truly worthwhile.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classic Li: Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)

We did one for Jackie, so we thought it's only fair we do one for Jet. Classic Li is our new eight-part series in which we review some classic Jet Li works. Chicken Man and I will alternate with four reviews each, though these reviews are not organized in any particular order. Up first is the Li/DMX team up Cradle 2 the Grave, a name which both looks and sounds like the title of a Prince record.

He's just so sensitive.
Cradle 2 the Grave is some very formulaic buddy cop martial arts stuff. One guy is black, the other is Asian. One likes hip hop, the other likes some different kind of music. One wears a whole lot of tank tops, the other can fight. How could they possibly accomplish anything with all those racial differences standing in their way? DMX plays the Detective Carter type, a jewel thief with a daughter and a conscience. He finds a stash of what appears to be black diamonds on a routine multi-million dollar heist, only to have those diamonds recovered by Jet, the Detective Lee type of this story. Some bozo arms dealer and his crew are out for the supposed diamonds, so he kidnaps X's daughter and holds her hostage. Naturally, reluctantly, X and Li must work together to get the little girl back, save the world from all kinds of nasty things, and promote DMX's latest single.

This is a really solid action film. DMX can't act a lick, but he doesn't have to do much besides yell/bark/hug his baby girl/gawk at a girl's cleavage while riding on a subway car, so he's palatable. Jet gets it, though; he's always at his best playing the silent but somewhat moral assassin (he doesn't particularly appreciate it when kids get hurt) like he does here. DMX does rumble a bit, but Jet really carries this as far as the martial arts are concerned. Like many of Jet and Jackie Chan's Hollywood projects, the kung fu in this one is a bit tempered when compared with their Chinese-language flicks. Still, Cradle has a nice, clean aesthetic in terms of the the fight scenes: not too many quick cuts, and not too much of that shaky-cam nonsense. It's a bit slow in the beginning, but it builds to a very satisfying climax. In fact, the final 30 minutes of Cradle is non-stop excitement, a veritable thrill-a-minute roller coaster, or something similar (I'm hoping to get Code Redd Net on the back of a DVD cover in the future, and I know how much hyphens are appreciated by the cats who make the important decisions regarding blurbs). I like Cradle 2 the Grave. I like watching Cradle 2 the Grave. I like typing Cradle 2 the Grave almost as much, but not quite as much.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...