Heavenly numbers greeted Cradle 2 the Grave over the weekend. With a healthy $17.5 million kick-boxed in three days, the Warner Brother martial arts actioner is headed for a profitable $60 million gross in America.
Cinematographer-turned-director Andrzej Bartkowiak continues his winning streak. All the three movies directed by him have done excellent business. Like his previous medium-budget hits, Exit Wounds and Romeo Must Die, the new movie's success also proves that audiences soundly ignore reviews and enjoy his films. Bartkowiak, cinematographer of hits like Lethal Weapon 4 and Speed, turned director about four years ago.
Made for about $25 million, Cradle 2 the Grave is yet another triumph for rap artist DMX. He plays a gang leader whose daughter is kidnapped and whose gangsters need to help the government agent (Jet Li) recover her. DMX was a big asset to Exit Wounds; though it was billed as Steven Segal's comeback film. The new film, which mixes hip-hop culture and Hong Kong martial arts, is expected to be a big hit in many Asian countries too.
In America, it was the only major release last week.
Next week, Paramount Pictures, which has two hits in release, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Hours, is unleashing The Hunted, starring two Oscar winners, Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro. Also, Columbia opens the military thriller Tears of the Sun, which could give Bruce Willis his first big hit in more than three years. For those of you looking for some good laughs, there is Touchstone Pictures' Bringing Down the House. The movie, which is co-produced by Ashok Amritraj, stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah (whose performance as the wily prison warden in Chicago fetched her an Oscar nomination).
Meanwhile, Cradle 2 the Grave joins many recently released medium-budget films, such as Darkness Follows, which were roasted by the critics and yet enjoyed solid box-office.
'Flamboyantly awful,' declared Robert K Elder in Chicago Tribune while Jonathan Foreman in New York Post wrote that Cradle 2 the Grave 'would be a perfectly decent B-action movie if it weren't shipwrecked in the last act.' Stephen Holden observed in The New York Times: 'A movie that has the flailing momentum of a defective action toy run amok.'
Yet, it was a very good week for Hollywood with many older movies showing wonderful staying power.
The comedy aimed at younger audiences, Old School, came down from its last weekend's gross by about 30 per cent and its cumulative take reached $37.2 million. With a $13.9 weekend gross, it was the second-highest grossing movie of the week. The story of three men in their thirties trying to relive their college days, Old School is the second film directed by Todd Philipps. His debut movie, Road Trip, was also aimed at younger audiences, and, like Old School, produced by DreamWorks.
The Ben Affleck starrer Daredevil, about a blind vigilante, seized $11 million and saw its total reach $84 million. The romantic comedy How To Lose a Guy.... barely slipped from its last weekend's gross and wooed $10 million to reach $77 million. If it doesn't suffer a steep fall in coming weeks, it could give Kate Hudson her first $100 million hit in a career that started about four years ago.
Strong Oscar contender Chicago added 92 more halls (total 2,447) and had a wonderful time grossing $8 million. There was hardly any significant drop from last week and the musical, which is nominated for 13 Oscars, waltzed past $100 million on Saturday. Its American gross has reached $105 million and abroad, where the film was played only in a handful of countries, it has grossed $50 million.
Unlike Chicago, the other big Oscar contender, The Hours (nine nominations), is drawing audiences mostly in big cities. With a $2 million gross, the literary film, revolving around three disturbed women and their men who have problems understanding them, has reached a satisfactory $33 million gross in North America.
The Disney film The Jungle Book 2, which was released without a big campaign, has still plenty of fire left in it. With a $6.8 million weekend gross and a $33 million total, it is headed for a $50 million run -- and then a quick trip to video stores. The sequel to the 1967 cartoon hit, the animated adventure drama features Haley Joel Osment as the voice of the wolf-reared Mowgli and John Goodman as his bear pal, Baloo.
The highly emotional anti-death punishment thriller, The Life of David Gale, opened to mediocre numbers ($7 million) last weekend. This week, the movie starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet and Laura Linney, grossed about $4.3 million, and its cumulative take reached $13.4 million. While Hollywood experts expect it to end its American run with a disappointing $22 million, they believe it will have a stronger run abroad, particularly in Germany and France, where the sentiments against death penalty are stronger than in America.