“Boorish, bigoted, and borderline pornographic.” “‘Tasteless, trashy, and over the top.” “Big, loud, and brain- . less.” These are the words reviewers are using to describe Jason Statham’s new action-crammed flick “Crank: High Voltage.” My reaction to their criticism: “All right! My type of movie!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not just some stereotypical American male who demands big explosions and hot chicks to enjoy a movie (although I admit it doesn’t hurt). I thoroughly enjoy movies of all kinds. But sometimes I’m in the mood for a video game without my thumbs getting sore, and that’s what the new genre of fast paced, mindless, assassin-oriented films is all about. When I found out that Chev Chelios (Statham) of the original “Crank” was not dead after all and that a sequel was on its way, I was excited.
“Crank: High Voltage” – or “Crank 2” as I prefer to call it – starts out with about the most ridiculous premise a movie could have. At the end of the original “Crank,” Chelios, retired hit man and all-around badass, has just fallen about half a mile out of a helicopter, bounced off a car, and landed face down on the ground. The credits roll on a closeup of his head. Fortunately for him, the car must have been a nice plastic “green” car instead of a steel gas guzzler, leaving him almost completely unharmed. As “Crank 2” begins, a group of Triad organ harvesters scrape him off the pavement and move him to their lab to pull out his superhuman heart. When Chev wakes up to find an electric heart in its stead, he’s understandably upset. He’s got to get that heart back quick, and he has to keep his electric heart charged up while he does it. So begins the 85-minute rampage that is “Crank 2.”
As preposterous as this premise is, it’s no more unbelievable than the first “Crank,” in which Chelios has been poisoned and must keep his heart pumping with adrenaline to stay alive. To do so, he engages in scene after scene of heart pumping races, chases, and shootouts. In “‘Crank 2,” his new heart requires continual jolts of electricity. But therein lies the problem of “Crank 2.” It’s not really a new movie. It’s just “Crank” redone – the same preposterous ideas rehashed, except with more blood, more explosions, and more nudity.
In “Crank 2,” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor take everything fans loved about the first movie and raise it to another level. In the first movie, Chev injects himself with epinephrine to keep his heart pumping; in “Crank 2,” he electrocutes himself with jumper cables. Same game, different board. Instead of a shootout in a gangsters club, in “Crank 2” there’s a full-on bloodbath at a strip club – including a stripper’s silicon boobs getting shot and quickly deflating. Instead of Chev having a brief public sex scene to keep his adrenaline up, there’s a nearly full on porn scene on a horse track about midway through the film. The premise behind that scene: static electricity from friction will keep his heart going. Just a bit of a stretch.
The film can be fun if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief completely. It’s just that about halfway through, you realize that they aren’t really trying to tell a story at all. This is just plain shock theater (pun intended). And to that end, the film succeeds. The problem is that being shocked isn’t the same as being entertained. For me the entertainment officially ended when for absolutely no reason at all, the movie turned into a Godzilla-style fight sequence. It was so shocking and strange that it almost became boring.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything good about “Crank 2.” Neveldine and Taylor have proven that you can turn a low-budget movie shot on handheld cameras into a summer blockbuster. They also have a knack for paring everything down to nonstop, in-your-face action: sex, violence, and rock ‘n’ roll stripped down to the core. That’s what I loved so much about the first “Crank.” But that movie had some .substance and a plot holding the action together. “Crank 2” is like asking for a second piece of cake and getting only a giant plate of icing.
When you look back at some of the great action movies of the late ’80s, you find that they always have an emotional storyline at heart. In “Commando,” Schwarzenegger’s daughter is kidnapped. In “Death Wish,” Bronson’s wife is murdered. Even in Liam Neeson’s recent movie “Taken,” in which Neeson takes out board after board – I mean scene after scene – of video-game-style bad guys, his sappy relationship with his daughter is the substance that allows us to care when he starts kicking ass. “Crank 2” has none of that. It’s more like watching a stuntman’s highlight reel.
When the guns stop blasting away and the boobs have finally been covered up, you wonder what was the point. That’s when a burning Jason Statham -literally on fire, skin melting as he walks – comes up to the camera and flips the audience off. Roll Credits. That sums up the movie pretty well. It’s a big F.U. to us for coming to watch it. Of course, if you want to be shocked and slightly entertained, I say go for it. But personally, I’d rather watch Van Damme do splits in “Blood Sport.”