Crank

crank-rev Crank  (2006)    Lionsgate/Action    RT: 87 minutes    Rated R (strong bloody violence, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, drug use)    Director: Neveldine/Taylor    Screenplay: Neveldine/Taylor    Music: Paul Haslinger    Cinematography: Adam Biddle    Release date: September 1, 2006 (US)    Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam, Carlos Sanz, Reno Wilson, Edi Gathegi, Glenn Howerton, Jay Xcala, Keone Young, Valarie Rae Miller, Yousuf Azami.    Box Office: $27.8 million (US)/$42.9 million (World)

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 Try to image an ADHD preteen playing first-person video games while all hopped up on Red Bull. That should give you an idea of what to expect from Crank, a zany action flick starring Jason Statham (The Transporter) as a hitman with a short life expectancy, one hour to be exact. Somebody injected him with poison for which there is no antidote and he intends to avenge his murder before his time runs out. Yes, Crank is as silly as it sounds. It’s loud, jumpy and super violent. It’s also a lot of fun.

 crankThe morning after he kills a Triad leader, Chev Chelios (Statham) wakes up to discover that he had a visitor while he slept. A small time gangster named Ricky Verona (Cantillo, The Walking Dead) broke in and injected with something everybody calls “Chinese s—t”. Basically, it’s a poison that inhibits the flow of adrenaline and slows the heart, eventually killing the victim. The only way for Chev to stay alive long enough to find and kill Ricky is to keep his adrenaline flowing by any means necessary. He chugs a lot of energy drinks, gets into fights with gangsters and cops, drives his car through a shopping mall (no, he doesn’t run into Jake and Elwood), wreaks havoc in a hospital while searching for epinephrine and has sex with his girlfriend Eve (Smart, Road Trip) in a very public place (i.e. the streets of Chinatown). It all leads to a final showdown with Ricky and his henchmen on a hotel rooftop.

 Ordinarily, I wouldn’t give a movie like Crank a favorable review. It’s one of those loud, hyper-edited jobs that more closely resemble a video game than a movie. Such movies are aimed at people with such short attention spans they can’t even follow a simple fight scene. The fight scenes in Crank utilize the quick-cut editing I’ve come to detest over the years. It doesn’t increase the excitement level, it just confuses matters. None of this applies to Crank. What’s detrimental to so many recent big-budget action spectacles works in this movie’s favor. The writer-director team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (the unfortunate Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) openly admit what their movie is with an opening credits sequence that looks like an old video game with its retro computer graphics. It’s a cool way to get the party started.

 I thoroughly enjoyed Crank! It’s so gloriously over the top, how could I feel otherwise? Statham is one of the biggest bad asses in the action genre right now. With that British accent and don’t-give-a-f**k attitude, Chev Chelios isn’t just a man; he’s a force of nature that defies reckoning of any sort. Like its “hero”, Crank hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the final frame. It has many great scenes. The ride through the mall ends not at a check-out counter but an escalator that Chev can’t quite clear in his car. In the hospital, he forces a terrified doctor to zap him with the defibrillator. “Juice me” is one of those lines that attain instant quotable status the moment it’s said, like “I’ll be back” and “Yippee-ki-yay, mother f—ker”. The public sex scene is a riot with all those people, including a busload of female Chinese students, watching in shock. Efren Ramirez, better known as Napoleon Dynamite’s bff Pedro, shows up as Kaylo, friend and informant to Chev. Gay as the day is long, he provides great comic relief until- SPOILER ALERT!- he meets a tragic end. Such is the fate of many a comic sidekick. Country singer Dwight Yoakam (Sling Blade) also contributes great support as Doc Miles, doctor to the stars of the criminal underworld in L.A. He provides useful medical advice while flying back from Vegas.

 The violence in Crank is crazy! Statham kicks a whole lot of ass in this one. One guy that crosses him gets his hand cut off with a meat cleaver while “Turn Me Loose” (by Loverboy) plays over the soundtrack. There’s also a cool fight on a helicopter that continues even after both parties fall out and plunge towards the ground. In that scene, Neveldine/Taylor uses Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” to nice effect. The soundtrack also includes “Mental Health” (Quiet Riot), “Everybody’s Talkin’” (Harry Nilsson), “Let’s Get It On” (Marvin Gaye) and “Kill All the White Man” (NOFX). Crank is funny, wild, action-packed and as insane an action flick as you’ll ever see. It’s like Speed without the bus. Hell, this movie is ON speed! I wish more action flicks were made with this much reckless abandon. Yes, the plot is idiotic. The people in it are cartoonish. His girlfriend Eve is a textbook dumb blonde. Kaylo is a total gay stereotype; all that’s missing is the limp wrist. Ricky is a stereotypical Latino gangster. If Crank wasn’t so over the top, it might be offensive. But it is, so it’s not. This is the kind of movie you watch with your brain in the OFF mode. It’s mindless in the best possible way. 

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