Written and Directed by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Dwight Yoakam
Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use.
Parental Notes: Teenagers will likely enjoy this madhouse of action, but parents may be concerned about the irreverence and casual public sex and drug use in the film.
“Crank” is a surreal tweaking of familiar action movie elements, an utterly over-the-top thrill ride that never stops. It has moments when it seems profound, but ultimately it’s got about as much meaning as a few levels of Pac-Man. Those bored of the usual actionfests may enjoy the way it takes everything to the extreme.
The plot is as simple as can be: mob hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham, “The Transporter”) wakes up under the influence of a drug and finds a DVD explaining that he’s been poisoned – his adrenaline receptors are shutting down and he has less than an hour to live. Enraged, he goes on a rampage to take out the people who did this to him, and discovers that if he floods his system with adrenaline by fighting or driving like a madman he can hold off the poison’s deadly effects. His doctor (Dwight Yoakam) helps him stay on the run long enough to keep his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart, “Peaceful Warrior”) from being snagged by the bad guys and then to get his revenge.
The entire movie is thoroughly surreal. The jumpy cuts and hand-held camera work make other action flicks look positively calm and soothing. Shots from Chev’s first-person point of view are warped and almost reminiscent of a Dali painting. When people speak to Chev on cellphones, they can often be seen reflected in mirrors near him or projected on walls like video cameras. When we first meet Eve she’s a stereotypical incompetent girlfriend, but once Chev convinces her that he really is a hit man and really has been poisoned, she suddenly becomes a useful ally to him (in spite of the fact that he nearly rapes her in pubic to try and get a life-saving adrenaline rush from the sex). Nothing can be taken for granted here because literally anything is possible. The last shot before the credits takes the cake, and after the credits is a sequence that may change your interpretation of the film entirely.
“Crank” is packed with action from start to finish, but those expecting lots of hand-to-hand fighting like in “The Transporter” will be disappointed. There’s tons of gun play, a car chase through a mall, but Statham hardly gets to show his chops as a street fighter. Still, if you’re looking for a thrill ride, it’s here. Any time Chev gets to relax for a moment, his heart slows and he begins dying. That’s enough motivation for him to start random fights, take any uppers he can get his hands on (even if he has to threaten people to get them), even do crazy stunts on a motorcycle. There’s a bit of graphic violence – a hand chopped off, gunfire, etc. – but compared to some action movies “Crank” has only a middling level of gore.
The cast don’t have to do much acting. “Crank” is the kind of movie where as long as actors don’t break character on screen or make people laugh by overacting too much, their performances are fine. Statham is building quite a reputation for playing tough guys on screen and keeps it up here. Smart also does well, and the actors playing the villains and supporting characters are competent.
Ultimately, whether or not you’ll enjoy “Crank” depends on your tolerance for logic-free action, surreal cinematography, and occasional on-screen brutality.