Crank (2006) – Review


Aside from the early, mockney gangster stuff he did with Guy Ritchie and the first Transporter, does anyone here actually remember much of Jason Statham’s action output? No seriously, other than showimg up in things like The Meg, The Expendables, Spy and the Fast And Furious franchise, how many solo action flicks if his can you casually name?
I’m assuming only the most ardent fans of the Stath will be hurling titles like War, The Mechanic, Blitz and Wild Card at like a deranged shuriken slinger, which kind of goes to prove my point. However, there is a movie that Statham has been a part of that has earned its place, seared into the memory of all who’s seen it due to the sheer, undiluted amounts of weapons-grade crazy it unleashes upon you without the slightest care in the world for trivial things like logic, restraint or food taste. That movie, lemons and germs, is Crank.


Unlikely named hitman Chev Chelios awakes in a confused stupor to find that his shitty demeanor is down to something a little more serious than a hard night of partying. It seems that, after a high profile hit on a prominent Triad, Chelios’ bosses have decided that, rather than face violent retaliation, it’s far simpler to have their hard-headed tool injected with a chinese synthetic that inhibits the flow of adrenalin until the heart stops. Of course, “simpler” can obviously mean different things to different people Chev awakens to find that not only does he have this poison within his system instead of a bullet, but his would-be assasin, a small-time rival by the name of Ricky Verona, has left a handy dandy DVD where he gloatingly leaves Chelois all the necessary details about his predicament.
However, the ever resourceful Chev discovers something of a biological loophole with this ungodly concoction that’s now flowing through his veins, if he can keep his heart rate elevated insanely high, he can keep beating for the time it takes for his creepy mob doctor to fly in. This means that our hero – and rest assured, I use the term loosely – has to get himself into as many deranged, dangerous and downright salacious scrapes as he possibly can until he either finds a cure or gets bloody revenge on his murderer.
When not picking fights with large groups of gangbangers, snorting coke off a grimy toilet floor, having sex with his ditzy girlfriend in a public place and generally causing havoc throughout the entire city as he desperately struggles to keep that flagging heart rate up by any means necessary.
But to what end? If Chelios kills Verona, he won’t get his cure and if he gets his cure, Verona will most likely get away. What’s a drug-addled, fatally poisoned, utterly amoral hitman to do?


Essentially a calling card/slash debut from notoriously frenzied filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who between them also gave us the similarly gonzo experiences of Gamer, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance and the even more batshit Crank 2: High Voltage, Crank is hardly a work of art, but it manages to pull off just enough of the insanity promised to make it a nicely mental night in. Essentially taking the Hitchcockian premise of a man trying to avenge his own murder and then drowning it in a vat of amyl nitrate, Crank is about as subtle as watching dwarf porn on date night and about twice as sketchy, but Neveldine & Taylor take their little, ugly, no-budget/high concept movie and turns in a grotesquely humourous thriller that still remains curiously unique.
Playing like the cinematic offspring of that time you got really stoned at 3 in the morning and just drove around on GTA trying to cause as much chaos as humanly possible before the police take you down, the directors skillfully counteract their obvious lack of funds with some truly innovative camera work. Switching relentlessly from fidgety hand held camera to split screen, numerous film stocks/speeds and chest mounted cameras to convey Chev Chelios’ current psychical state, the movie itself moves like its frazzled lead, knowing that if it were to stop, it would most surely perish.
The reason for this is that Crank virtually has no plot to speak of and what passes as “story” is literally Chev having to come up with ever more outrageous set pieces to keep the old pumper thumping and jettison any and all nuance in order to channel that sense of Jackass-style outrageousness. The result is a movie that will not be borderline unwatchable to anyone who is easily offended but will no doubt be a hit with those of a cult sensibility.


This is where the Stath comes in. I love Statham, but as I mentioned earlier, some of his solo projects can often be a bit bland, becoming instantly forgotten the second you finish watching it, so watching him finally get his big, fleshy mitts on something so utterly fucking out there is something of a joy to behold. Watching him stride through a gaudily coloured world full of transvestite informants, buses full of cheering, Asian,  schoolgirls and more weirdo lowlifes than a quick play through of Saint’s Row feels like he’s finally found his natural niche and he takes to this comic book world like a duck to water. Seemingly willing (and weirdly eager) to fulfill literally anything the script requires him to do, Statham tackles every scene with that nasal snarl and a detached determination as he weathers every single indignity with style to spare. Need him to rob a convience store of all their energy drinks? No problem. Want him to storm as hospital in order to get a bunch of epinephrine while holding a team of doctors at gunpoint? No sweat, brother. How about having him mindlessly sprint through the streets, high as a kite while his butt hangs out the back of his flapping hospital robe? You need another take of that?
It’s Statham’s total belief in Crank’s twistedly humourous outlook that truly makes this mutant experiment of an action movie work and his enthusiasm even manages to help the film to clear a few genuinely unsavory moments such as him fucking girlfriend Eve (a heroically game Amy Smart) in full view of a street of cheering people while she vigorously protests. However, its spirited fusion of video game sensibilities and a lack of anything approaching taste doesn’t have strong rewatch value and the fact that this is an action that doesn’t actually have all that much actual action reveals the cracks in the budget.
However, it’s tough to hate a film where your lead escapes from a gang of cops by being violently blasted back into an elevator after being brutally defibrillated by a pre Always Sunny’s Glen Howerton and it’s even tougher to hate a film where Statham violently slam dances to Achey Brakey Heart in the back of a cab – so don’t try.


So, innovative or idiotic? Well, both actually, but this gimmick-laden, bad taste marathon doesn’t quite have the longevity factor despite being cranked all the way up to eleven.


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