Sunday, January 28, 2007


Directors: Mike Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Jose Pablo Castillo, Dwight Yoakam, Carlos Sanz

Running Time: 86 min.

Rating: R

***1/2 (out of ****)

Crank fulfills its promise as an adrenaline thrill-ride that never slows down.  Literally an assault on the senses, it's an 87-minute video game on crack. The filmmaking style employed in this is frantic and definitely not for all tastes and to say it's for the music video generation is putting it lightly. That said, I loved every second of it. It takes an incredible premise and jams it down our throats, rarely giving us a second to think or breathe.

Watching this is like eating cinematic junk food. It gives you instant gratification but it's bad for you and you're craving for something more substantial an hour later. Upon reflection though, maybe not. It actually took a lot of talent and skill to put something like this together and it does stay with you because amidst all the chaos is a good story with interesting characters and clever ideas. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun watching an action movie. Plus, you have to respect any film that contains Napoleon Dynamite's Pedro as a cross-dresser, a roof party with girls in plastic bubbles, and a main character consuming copious amounts of nasal spray to stay alive.

Professional hitman Chev Chelios (The Transporter's Jason Statham) wakes up shaking and sweating in front of a flat screen TV with a DVD taped to it. When he pops it in he sees footage of himself a night earlier being injected with a "Bejing Cocktail" by his crime boss rival Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). This poisonous substance will kill him once his heart rate drops and it settles in his bloodstream. The only way to delay the inevitable: don't stop moving and keep the adrenaline flowing. Fighting to stay alive and out for revenge against the man who poisoned him, Chev must turn to his physician, Doc Miles (a hilarious Dwight Yoakam) and his cross-dressing friend, Kaylo (Dynamite's Efren Ramirez) for answers, before it's too late. He must also come clean with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), who thinks he works as a videogame designer.

The opening credit sequence cleverly employs 80's video game graphics and the film is so fast and the editing so slick that I imagined Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer watching on their couches in jealousy. This may be the first movie I've seen that could qualify as a live action video game. It's Grand Theft Auto come to life. This would problematic if not for the fact that it fits the story perfectly: If he can't stop moving, why should the movie? I'm not going to spoil all the clever ways the script has Chev keep his adrenaline levels up, but let's just say there's a scene in Chinatown that has to be seen to be believed. Before I saw this, somebody told me "Wait until you see the scene in Chinatown!"

What co-directors and writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor pull off here is very tricky as it's incredibly difficult to make an action movie these days that isn't some kind of variation on an idea we've seen before. This is completely original and I have feeling it's likely destined to become a cult classic. I also think much of this film will be lost on older viewers who haven't been a part of the video game generation and likely wouldn't understand where this is coming from. That's okay though, because they're not the audience this is aimed at anyway.

I can't think of an actor more perfect for the role of Chev than Statham. Even with his eyes bugging out of his head and in full bad-ass mode you like the guy and you're rooting for him, which is of primary importance in an action movie. He brings an intensity to the screen that's unmatched by today's other action stars and I could eventually see him emerging as a strong dramatic actor if he ever chooses that direction. I like how when we meet his girlfriend, she's not at all who you'd expect this guy to be with, and Amy Smart is really endearing in the role. The casting of Ramirez and Yoakam also prove that while the the movie kicks ass and takes names, it's never taking itself too seriously and is often hilarious.

Best of all, I challenge anyone to be able to guess the ending of this film. You think you know where it's going, but by the last ten minutes you have no idea. Some will likely take exception with the final scene, calling it unrealistic, self congratulatory and bombastic but no one can claim it's not in line with the tone of the rest of the film. Plus, you have to give props to any directors with the guts to use Jefferson Starship song to close their film. It's easy to get so caught up in analyzing films and forget the main reason we watch movies is to have fun. The thrilling Crank is that reminder.

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