September 2nd, 2006
Ahh, dear sweet “Crank.” The latest stab by Hollywood to cash in on the violent video game craze, “Crank” doesn’t quite reach the rousing depths of awful that “Running Scared” touched last winter, but it comes dangerously close.
Chev (Jason Statham) has a problem. Recently injected with a mysterious solution that will kill him in a matter of hours, Chev searches for the hoodlums who put him in this horrible situation. To stave off the effects of the drug, Chav must keep his adrenaline racing at all times, leading him on a rampage of theft, murder, head-banging, and sex to keep his ticker pumping long enough to taste his revenge.
“Crank” is a sensory atom bomb that thirsts to mimic the peril and overload of a video game. It’s an irritable action fest rooted in the belief that it just isn’t enough to hammer the audience with style; you have to make ‘em bleed too. It’s also a film we’ve seen before; in the artistic garbage heap also known as “Running Scared,” or any recent output from Tony Scott.
The directors for “Crank” are credited simply as neveldine/taylor. Or is that taylor/neveldine? I’m not sure, since I was sprinting out of the theater when the film finally concluded, like a man fresh out of solitary confinement. The filmmakers are two uber-hip Hollywood fringe types with extensive backgrounds in special effects and stunt work. “Crank” is their omelet of razor blades and spit; polished up neatly as a “kewl” joyride for those who think “Beavis and Butthead” is far too challenging and need an over directed pummeling to keep the senses alive.
“Crank” has it all: guns, babes, fisticuffs, uzi-like editing, boner jokes, drugs, thugs, blood, Dwight Yoakam, and Atari references. The only thing missing is a cameo by a member of Linkin Park.
Oh wait, the film has that too.
Using the premise that adrenaline is paramount to Chev’s adventure, the directors turn this “Speed” knockoff (or “D.O.A.” if you want to retain your film history credibility) into a pulverizing experience where the frame throbs with blood-spattered violence, the performances are turned up to 11 and beyond, and every moment must have some type of hipster/ironic twist to it. I’ll give the film this: it isn’t as viciously and spitefully mean-spirited like “Running Scared,” but that doesn’t make the sheer agony of watching it magically float away.
I don’t care how many edits it has, how many trick shots it can pull off, or how much old-lady-alienating material it contains; “Crank” is still an atrocity of visual design (the film uses Google Earth to transition between locations, ferchristsake), acting, and fundamental storytelling that, at times, scarily resembles an especially smelly YouTube submission.
What really chaps me is the recent revelation that cutting-edge doesn’t equate originality to these chaotic filmmakers anymore. Strip away all the artifice of “Crank,” and what’s really here are characters and situations better off in a Van Damme direct-to-video offering, not the specialized punk rock experience it’s intended to be. The directors fatally wound their own movie by using the last 25 minutes to actually try and pay off Chav’s revenge story, as if anybody truly cares if the bad guys get their just desserts, or even if Chav makes it out of this torture chamber alive. With such lavish attention paid to making certain every single frame contains some needless and suffocating ornamentation, to watch the film actually try and find a heartfelt ending was easily the most hilarious bit of business in it.
Mercifully, the last-name-only directors found Jason Statham to take the lead role. Already a Lee Marvin for the Xbox 360 generation, Statham is an inspired choice to match wits with neveldine/taylor’s recipe of insanity. He’s been here before (Chav’s elevator confrontation scene with the voices in his head is straight out of “Revolver”), but Statham has an aggressive swagger about him that makes this lethal dose of needling entertainment just a little easier to swallow. I can’t say Statham has been making the best career choices lately (his next film is directed by…wait for it…Uwe Boll!), but it’s a relief to see he can rise above it all with his raspy croak and short stack Irish kisses.
There’s no doubt, much like “Running Scared,” that “Crank” will have staunch supporters who will embrace the nihilistic punch of the picture, and root for the noise and debauchery. Hey, they’re welcome to it. However, I won’t be able to join that club, as I want things like actual screenwriting and attentive direction from my mindless entertainment; not amateurish, bottom-feeding stupidity. If I wanted a video game experience, I would just, ya know, play video games.
My rating: D-