Crank: High Voltage

Ealasaid/ April 20, 2009/ Movie Reviews and Features

Written and Directed by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Efren Ramirez, Art Hsu
Rated: R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language.
Parental Notes: To say this film is not appropriate for children is an understatement. Teens will likely enjoy the frenetic action, but parents may find the content problematic.

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* April 23, 8pm: “This American Life” hosted by Ira Glass, shown in local movie theaters. See for details.
* April 26 (11am) & 29 (7pm): Verdi’s “Rigoletto” performed by Teatro Regio de Parma, Italy. See for details.
* April 29, 7:30pm: “Death Note L: Change the World,” subtitled. See for details.
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* May 9, 12:30pm: The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “La Cenerentola,” live. See for details.
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* May 14, 7 pm: MHS Film Festival at Milpitas High School. Email for more information.
* May 20, 7pm: The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “La Cenerentola,” encore presentation. See for details.

Watching “Crank: High Voltage” forcibly reminded me of weekends in college spent drinking way too much caffeine and playing video games. This is a hyper-focused, intense, over-the-top film, much like the first was. If anything, this one makes an effort to push even more boundaries, to be even more insane and logic-free. This is a film for folks who find films like “The Transporter” too tame and cerebral, folks who just want as much action and lunacy packed into 95 minutes as humanly possible.
The plot is very bare-bones: hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) miraculously survives the fall out of a helicopter from the end of the first film, and wakes up in a makeshift hospital to discover his nigh-indestructible heart has been stolen, replaced with a shoddy, battery-powered artificial heart until his other organs can be harvested. He escapes and sets out to get his heart back, destroying anyone who stands in his way — and periodically having to electrocute himself to keep his artificial heart going. There’s a subplot about a Mexican gangster out to get him as well, which ties into the first film — but it’s hard to believe that not having seen “Crank” will cause “Crank: High Voltage” to make any less sense than it already does. Most movies ask you to suspend your disbelief a little; the “Crank” films demand that you strangle it, chop it to pieces, and possibly do lewd things to the remains.
Every possible boundary of taste or decorum is smashed to smithereens here. There’s public sex, lascivious elderly people, a gangbanger sodomized with a shotgun, plenty of gun violence with gouts of blood everywhere, racial stereotypes and epithets, heaps of nudity, and more misogyny than you can shake a stick at. That Chev’s girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) beats up a few folks herself hardly makes up for the fact that nearly every woman in the film is at least half-naked, mostly helpless, and a sex object. Not that the men fare much better — nearly all of them are crazed caricatures with absurd character traits, from the indestructible Chev to effeminate hustler with “full-body Tourette’s” Venus (Efren Ramirez) to David Carradine as Poon Dang, the creepy, ancient leader of the Chinese gangs.
All of this should add up to a heaping pile of garbage, and for some viewers, that’s just what “Crank: High Voltage” will be. The gleeful way in which every standard action trope is amplified past the point of absurdity will appeal to other viewers, however, and those are the sorts of people the film was made for. What makes “Crank: High Voltage” a blast is that the entire cast and crew are obviously having a fantastic time. Even without watching the outtakes that run during the credits, the entire film radiates the kind of fun had by a group of overcaffeinated friends excitedly talking about their favorite action movies. “Crank: High Voltage” was obviously written to include as many things that made the writer-directors say, “Oh, man, this would be AWESOME!” as possible.

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