Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.
Release Date: September 1st, 2006 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor Actors: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam, Edi Gathegi, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Carlos Sanz, Glenn Howerton
rilliant in its attempt to leave the viewer as disoriented and distressed as its poisoned protagonist, “Crank” makes up for its simplistic plot and cardboard characters with unrelenting chaos and oddly humorous, blatant disregard for the sick, the elderly, harmless animals, personal property, and innocent bystanders. Surprisingly devoid of Jason Statham’s signature martial arts fighting (though supposedly showcasing genuine stunts, unmodified by CGI), “Crank” nevertheless refuses to skimp on the gratuitous violence, colorful cursing, mind-numbing camera tricks, and sex in very public places. In many ways, it transcends a mere Jason Statham action film by exploiting overwrought editing and cinematography to generate an almost cartoonish vision of invincible macho men, damsels in distress, and fantasy recklessness, like something from a “Grand Theft Auto” video game.
Professional assassin Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) groggily awakens to discover that he’s been betrayed by his employer, mob boss Carlito (Carlos Sanz), and poisoned by his conspiring nemesis, Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo), for a hit gone wrong. Injected with a Chinese synthetic drug (“Beijing Cocktail”), Chelios has only hours to live and must keep his flow of adrenaline at a constant high to avoid an even quicker demise. Determined to hunt down and kill those responsible for his unusual situation, the hitman loads up on caffeine, epinephrine, medicinal coke, and other stimulants, and takes to the streets in an unrelenting spree of mayhem and destruction, destined to leave no one unharmed.
The villain is laughably over-the-top, the plot is unrealistic and uncluttered with character development, and the dialogue is barely necessary. But the filming techniques compensate for the most immediate shortcomings – lots of frenetic, crazed special effects serve the same purpose as the artificial adrenaline consumed by the antihero. Split screens, slow-motion, blurriness, color saturations, distorted lenses, bizarre camera angles, and loud music simulate the helter-skelter, unnerving agitation experienced by the lead character, as if to place audiences in a virtual first-person perspective to fully comprehend – and perhaps appreciate – the madness. This attention to style (certainly over substance) affords “Crank” a faster pace and more viscerally thrilling encounters, even if the principle ideas lack the panache to impress without the discombobulating embellishments.
Statham doesn’t engage in his trademark kung fu skirmishes (usually signified by a careful, circular formation of weapon-wielding thugs), the heart-cam is a bit much for the sake of realism (the camera occasionally zooms into Chev’s chest to visualize his heart rate and, at one point, even the thumping ticker of a bird is zeroed in on, as if equipment was dedicated just to such penetrative shots), and his unbelievably oblivious girlfriend frequently calls in to question the plausibility of just about everything in the film. But with a short duration and never a second of downtime, “Crank” definitely knows the meaning of nonstop action. And, as if to put a permanent stop to the insanity, writers/directors Neveldine and Taylor conclude Chelios’ incredibly destructive rampage with absolutely no room for a sequel…
– The Massie Twins