Benjamin has been reviewing films online since 2004 and has seen way more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the Big Deal?
Crank is an action thriller film released in 2006 and was written and directed by the partnership of Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor in their feature film debuts. The film stars Jason Statham as a hitman poisoned by a small-time gangster who must continually flood his bloodstream with adrenaline in order to keep himself alive. The film has a dark comic streak running throughout and makes several references to video games. It also defined the over-the-top style maintained by Neveldine & Taylor in their other movies like Gamer and the sequel to Crank, Crank: High Voltage. It made just shy of $43 million at the box office (on a modest budget of just $12 million) and received a warm reception from critics, despite its extremely derivative nature and adults-only levels of violence, sex and drug abuse.
What's It About?
Chev Chelios is a British hitman working in Los Angeles at the behest of local gangster Carlito. After being asked by Carlito to take out Triad boss Don Kim, small-time hoodlum Ricky Verona spots an opportunity and conspires with Carlito to betray Chelios. Sneaking into his flat, Verona injects a Chinese poison into a sleeping Chelios which restricts the body's flow of adrenaline and ultimately causes death. When Chelios wakes up, he watches a video Verona has made explaining what he has done and informing him that he only has one hour to live. Realising that he literally has no time to lose, Chelios hits the streets hard.
Informed by back-street physician Doc Miles that he needs to constantly produce adrenaline to prolong the effects of the poison, Chelios indulges in all sorts of mayhem to keep himself alive such as starting numerous, driving through a crowded mall, having sex with his girlfriend Eve in the middle of Chinatown and stealing a load of meds from the local hospital. Can Chelios survive long enough to seek out those who've killed him and just how bad a day is the LAPD going to have?
What's to Like?
It's safe to say that Neveldine & Taylor know their target audience all too well. They are aiming at the Grand Theft Auto generation but specifically, those players who ignore the storylines and indulge in cartoony ultraviolence. So if the idea of running amok with a mini-gun appeals to you then Crank is as enjoyable a film as you'll find. The insane plot nicely sets up the gimmick of a man who has to live life on the absolute ragged edge in order to stay alive and the film has no shortage of such moments for your viewing pleasure.
For what it's worth, Statham's performance is rugged and plays up to the material (or should that be, play down?) while his stunt work matches his previous efforts like The Transporter. Smart deserves better than this childish nonsense but like Statham, gauges the tone of the piece perfectly. But nobody will watch this as a serious character study - the film's excessive and extreme levels of violence make this strictly for adults only while the film's warp-speed pacing prevents too many questions being asked. It feels like a movie attempting to imitate a video game with zoom-ins from satellites, lots of old-school graphics and effects and the 8-bit styling to the end credits.
- In addition to their writing and directing duties, Neveldine & Taylor also operated the A and B camera - one shooting a wide-screen shot and the other shooting close-ups.
- As is usual for his roles, Statham performed all the fight scenes and driving scenes himself including hanging out of a helicopter 3000 feet above LA.
- Chester Bennington, the late lead singer in Linkin Park, has a cameo as the man in the hospital pharmacy telling Chelios about the nasal spray. He also appeared as a different character in Crank: High Voltage.
What's Not to Like?
There is a sense, when watching Crank, that there must be better action movies than this, ones that aren't as depraved as this. The movie's mission to entertain the attention-depraved youth of today, unfortunately, comes at the cost of cohesion and maturity. Rarely did I completely understand what was happening and the film's defiantly immature approach to the material is at odds with the adult audience it's designed for. It's like getting the boys from Jackass to produce a Jane Austen adaptation.
While its heady blend of action, dark humour and crazy storylines might be excessive for some, it's actually the tip of an iceberg. Fellow B-movie action pic Shoot 'Em Up also utilises similar extremes to propel it forward while the electric sequel to this is even more insane. Like horror films that continually pursue increasingly gruesome murders and sicker psychopaths, action films are starting to get to the point when they have started spoofing themselves without realising it. After all, is any of the mayhem seen in Crank any less ludicrous than those seen in actual spoofs of action films like Hot Shots: Part Deux? For all its hyperactivity and window-licking mentality, this film feels dreadfully old-fashioned and even amateurish at times.
Should I Watch It?
There's no denying that Crank is a surreal slice of non-stop action, fuelled by Statham's relentless performance and the orgy of destruction the bonkers screenplay allows. But it's as deep and meaningful as an air hostess's smile, extremely derivative and offers viewers little beyond the sheer pace of the thing. As a low-budget bit of mindless fun, it's in a class of its own but viewers today demand more than shameless gore, exploitative nudity and bad taste.
Great For: a boys night in, people who don't care about stuff like characterisation, gamers
Not So Great For: anyone under the age of 18, the easily offended, lovers of more cerebral cinema
What Else Should I Watch?
That depends. Crank is the sort of film that will either light up your world or take things too far. If you're in the former camp then the obvious recommendation is Crank: High Voltage which uses a similar gimmick in that he has to keep charging a new artificial heart with regular jolts of electricity but takes the lunacy of the first film and turns it up to eleven. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the dumbest film I have ever seen and will probably ever be made. And that statement comes from someone who has watched Drive Angry!
However, those of you in the latter camp might prefer things a little less mental. The Matrix combines stunning effects with some of the best-choreographed action scenes in recent times (the lobby shoot-out still stands the test of time) while the stripped-back realism of The Bourne Identity adds to the thrill of seeing Matt Damon's amnesic assassin take on all comers. And if you can't decide whether this movie is for you, might I suggest Desperado which is just as violent and daft, made for even less money than Crank was and has Salma Hayek in smoking hot form alongside Antonio Banderas's iconic character, El Mariachi.
Jose Pablo Cantillo
|Directors||Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor|
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Release Date (UK)
1st September, 2006
© 2015 Benjamin Cox