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3 items from 2003

Hu in action for ABC on drama series 'Threat'

22 December 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Action star Kelly Hu is stepping into ABC's Threat Matrix. The X2: X-Men United star has been tapped to do at least five episodes of Touchstone TV/Industry TV's freshman drama set in the world of homeland security. Hu will play a new member to the Threat Matrix team, an elite task force created to respond to daily threats to U.S. security. Production on the first episode featuring Hu is scheduled to begin Jan. 5. Hu's credits include the features The Scorpion King and Cradle 2 the Grave and the CBS series Nash Bridges and Martial Law. She recently wrapped the action-comedy feature Underclassman for Miramax Films and Tapestry Films. Hu is repped by Innovative Artists, Mosaic Media Group and attorney Neil Meyer. »

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Hu answers bell for 'Underclassman'

15 October 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

X2: X-Men United star Kelly Hu has joined the cast of first-time feature helmer Marcos Siega's action-comedy Underclassman for Miramax Films and Tapestry Films. The project -- about a young detective (Nick Cannon) who goes undercover at an elite private school -- also stars Shawn Ashmore (X-Men, X2), Roselyn Sanchez (Rush Hour 2), Hugh Bonneville (Iris) and Cheech Marin. Hu will play Lisa Brooks, a good friend on the police force to Cannon's character. David T. Wagner and Brent Goldberg penned the screenplay for Underclassman, which began shooting this month in Canada and is slated to move to Los Angeles on Nov. 12 and wrap in December. »

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Cradle 2 the Grave

28 February 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens Friday, Feb. 28

Like a well-oiled machine, "Cradle 2 the Grave" purrs along at maximum efficiency, delivering fights, chases, explosions and comic interludes with cool precision. The cast is handsome and athletic. The pace is swift. And cinematographer-turned-director Andrzej Bartkowiak establishes a look of scruffy urban chic that plays nicely off the calibrated chaos of the movie's action stunts. The movie is soulless, though, in conformity with the current Hollywood mind-set that fears any intrusion of humanity or sentiment into its "thrillers."

Movies like "Cradle 2 the Grave" are more designed than written. Playing to the prevailing tastes of the youth market, especially males, the Joel Silver production fuses martial arts with hip-hop, Jet Li with DMX. It's the super-cool cinema of stoic action heroes, tough women, pitiless villains and stunts choreographed to a hip-hop beat. "Cradle", aiming to be little more than a crowd-pleaser, should scoop up above-average boxoffice coin from several demographics.

Li has a singular presence onscreen. Taciturn and determined, he projects tremendous strength but little inner life. He dispatches opponents without breaking a sweat and steers clear of emotional connections to other characters. While he is undeniably charismatic, rooting for Li in a film is like rooting for a computer in a chess match.

So Silver and writers John O'Brien and Channing Gibson wisely give "Cradle" two protagonists to carry the load. The first is Tony Fait, played by rap artist and actor DMX, who with a posse of high-tech thieves pulls off a complex heist in downtown L.A. that nets a puzzling cache of black diamonds. The other is Li Su,'s a Taiwanese superagent whom early in the movie someone accurately characterizes as a "kung fu James Bond."

When the diamond theft results in the kidnapping of Fait's young daughter, the two would-be adversaries, Fait and Su, join forces to go up against the ruthless Ling (Mark Dacascos). Ling, Su's former partner turned freelance international crook, seeks the diamonds for their industrial use as a weapon of mass destruction.

Each thief has his own butt-kicking consort. Fast-rising Star Gabrielle Union is Fait's second-in-command, equally adept at karate chopping an opponent and creating sexy diversions to distract unsuspecting men while Fait is breaking and entering. Black-belt bad girl Kelly Hu is Ling's heartless hottie who hates kids, cops and just about anything else that doesn't translate into cold cash.

Rounding out the lively cast are Drag-On's all-purpose go-to guy; Anthony Anderson's smooth-talking machinist, who creates comic diversions of his own; and Tom Arnold, in an amusing switch on racial roles in old Hollywood movies, as the white guy supplying comic relief.

A simplistic plot manages to squeeze in more than a few action set pieces. There's a chase through downtown streets, alleys and stairways between police cars and DMX on a quad bike that concludes in a series of rooftop jumps; a tussle between heroes and thugs in an alley, where they must dodge ravenous Dobermans, and DMX somersaults off a wall; a battle at an illicit fight club that throws Li into a cage against 15 freestyle combatants; and a climax that has a number of face-offs, the most notable being between Li and Dacascos, after a helicopter crash, that takes place in a ring of fire. If all this leaves viewers more drained than exhilarated, that's the nature of this particular beast.

Filming in Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles locations, cinematographer Daryn Okada and designer David F. Klassen create a new kind of film noir that turns much of Southern California into a latter-day Wild West. Cops are useless, crime rampant and an underworld of clubs and fight venues exists if you know the right door to pass through. It's a dark and industrial milieu, brimming with menace and corruption, where the distance between cradle and grave can be very short. A soundtrack from John Frizzell and Damon "Greases" Blackman that includes several recording artist signed to DMX's label is a major selling point.


Warner Bros. Pictures

Silver Pictures


Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Story by: John O'Brien

Screenwriters: John O'Brien, Channing Gibson

Producer: Joel Silver

Executive producers: Ray Copeland, Herg Gains

Director of photography: Daryn Okada

Production designer: David F. Klassen

Music: John Frizzell, Damon "Greases" Blackman

Co-producers: Susan Levin, Melina Kevorkian

Costume designer: Ha Nguyen

Editor: Derek Brechin

Fight choreographer: Corey Yuen


Su: Jet Li

Tony Fait: DMX

Ling: Mark Dacascos

Tommy: Anthony Anderson

Sona: Kelly Hu

Daria: Gabrielle Union

Archie: Tom Arnold

Miles: Drag-On

Vanessa: Paige Hurd

Running time -- 101 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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