US Release Date: 09-01-2006
Directed by: Mark Neveldine Brian Taylor
- Jason Statham, as
- Chev Chelios
- Amy Smart, as
- Efren Ramirez, as
- Jose Pablo Cantillo, as
- Jay Xcala, as
- Dwight Yoakam, as
- Doc Miles
- Carlos Sanz, as
- Keone Young, as
- Don Kim
- Chester Bennington as
- Pharmacy Stoner
Jason Statham in Crank.
Crank is a fast-paced video game of a movie that works on the most important level a movie can work on; it entertains you from start to finish. It's filled with over-the-top, far fetched action and implausible stunts, but they all work perfectly within the world created in this movie. And who better to star in a movie that feels like a video game, than an actor who looks like he just stepped out of one; Jason Statham. His shaved head, tough British guy image seems perfectly suited for one of today's ultra-violent video games and equally suits this movie. He holds it all together from start to finish.
The movie jumps right into the story, not even wasting time with opening credits. Statham plays Chev Chelios, an assassin for hire who wakes up with what feels like a hangover only to be informed by a DVD left in his apartment that he's been given a poison that will kill him shortly. The poisoner is a smalltime hood named Verona, who's giving Chev payback for a 'hit' he performed earlier. Chev decides that he will make it his mission, before the poison finishes him off, to find and kill Verona.
What gives the movie its juice is that the poison, as Chev quickly learns from a doctor friend of his, is causing his adrenal glands to shut down and that the only way he can stay alive is to constantly keep producing adrenaline. That means he has to continually either scare, stress, or stimulate himself to stay alive. And so he becomes a one man wrecking crew across Los Angeles as he searches for Verona. He gets into bar fights, drives his car through a mall, has sex with his ditzy girlfriend in the middle of a Chinatown street surrounded by tourists, and just about any other insane thing he can think to do.
The movie really works for a few reasons. One is that it never lets up; constantly throwing more and more action at you so you never really have time to question any of it. Two, it has a sense of fun about it. This movie isn't taking itself seriously and it doesn't want you to either. And lastly and most importantly, it has Jason Statham as the lead. He handles the comedy and the action equally well, walking that fine line which keeps this movie from becoming a farce.
I don't think I've seen a movie based on a video game that ever turned out to be any good. Crank, which wasn't based on a video game, almost feels like it was and yet is very good. The video game connection is strengthened by the opening title, which is done very much in classic video game style, and a scene later where one of the villains is shown playing an old school video game from the 80s.
If you have a good sense of humor, like action movies, and don't mind a little blood and gore then why not close out the summer with Crank. It's more entertaining than most of the Summer blockbusters that came before it this year.
Jason Statham and Amy Smart in Crank.
Crank is the most original action movie I have seen in a long time. It should not have been, when you consider that it steals the set up from Dennis Quaid's D.O.A. (1988) which itself is a remake from the 1950 D.O.A. First time directors Neveldine and Taylor, who also wrote the screenplay, keep the audience engaged with quick edits and a pace that never slows for any reason what-so-ever. They have their own style, that at first I found annoying, but once I got use to it, I found that it was quite appropriate for a movie about a man on all kinds of stimulants.
I could pick apart this movie for many critical reasons, such as how many bullets does Chev's gun carry? He shoots dozens of men without ever reloading. At one point he gets shot in his butt. Blood flies and Statham yells that he got shot in his ass. However, the wound is never again mentioned. But this movie sets the tone early on about how it treats killing as entertainment in that video game sort-a-way. Or as Scott wrote, “This movie isn't taking itself seriously and it doesn't want you to either.”
And you won't. The scene where Chev picks up his girlfriend and takes her out while thugs are trying to kill her is hilarious. As is the scene where he escapes from the hospital in a dressing gown while sporting an erection. Why his character didn't keep his underwear on is never explained. This movie made me laugh more than most of the comedies I saw this year.
In the September 8, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Statham is quoted as saying he did this movie because, “I wanted something undiluted and hard..” Crank has blood, swearing, severed body parts, crude jokes and nude scenes. Ain't nothing diluted here, but the charm of Crank is not it's rating. It is Statham playing it straight in this action packed, comedy.
Jason Statham and Efren Ramirez in Crank.
Crank works best as a comedy. In fact I wish it had included more intentional humor, like the public sex scene, which actually made me laugh out loud at its sheer audacity. As Eric pointed out, the plot is unoriginal although it plays out at a fast enough pace that the audience never has time to stop and think about it. At the beginning I wasn't sure how they were going to keep this pedal-to-the-metal tempo going for the entire movie but they somehow manage it.
I concur that Statham is great in the lead. He did all of his own stunts, including dangling from a helicopter high above the streets of L.A. He makes a convincing psychopath. I wouldn't want to cross him. But he also brings a rather droll sense of humor to Chev Chelios which grounds the movie a bit, even as the action sequences become more and more far-fetched.
The script is cleverly written and if you pay attention you get quite a bit of background info on the various gangsters that populate this crazy cinematic world. The characters are all painted with broad strokes but it works for the type of movie this is. I didn't get many of the video game references but I did catch several intentional homages to other movies. The driving through the mall scene copied The Blues Brothers and Chev Chelio is named for Chevy Chase, specifically in Foul Play, with Amy Smart's Eva referencing Goldie Hawn in that movie. They both drive the same yellow VW convertible. In one scene Statham drives a motorcycle while the theme from Midnight Cowboy plays.
The violence is beyond cartoonish. As Scott and Eric both already wrote, it is not to be taken seriously. It is meant to provide an adrenaline rush much like the one Chev is in a constant quest for. The camera work and editing are as frenetic as any I have ever witnessed. The special effects include several close-ups of Statham's heart beating inside his chest. Although I'm normally not a fan of too many quick cuts and overly clever camera work this stylish but intrusive direction perfectly suits this movie.
Crank is an amphetamine rush for the eyeballs. It's a relentless roller-coaster ride on steroids. And as an added bonus it features Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite in drag. Crank it up dude!
Photos © Copyright Lions Gate Films (2006)