I would never have watched this film in the cinema if I didn’t have an unlimited pass I pay for – I certainly didn’t watch Crank at the cinema; hell, I watched it on DVD and didn’t think that there could be a sequel, let alone harbour a desire to watch one. I just wanted to experience seeing a brainless film on the big screen. And it was an experience. And it was brainless.
Crank: High Voltage could almost be equated with Quantum of Solace (but this is the only way they compare) in that it is a film that follows on immediately from the events of the original film. In Crank, the improbably named Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is a hitman who is injected with a poison that will cause his heart to stop unless he keeps his adrenaline levels high. This he does by stealing drugs from a hospital, getting a hit from a defibrillator, picking fights with gangsters, fighting with the police and, famously, having sex with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) in public. At the end of the film, he killed the man responsible for poisoning him by snapping his neck as they both fall out of a helicopter from a great height. Which is promising for a sequel, except they had him blink to suggest that the adrenaline was still working.
The fall from the helicopter is recreated at the beginning of Crank: High Voltage in old-school computer game format, which lets you know that normal rules of cinema do not apply here. Not that they really applied in the first film, but the sequel is so mental (in the British sense of the word) it makes the original film look quaint and old-fashioned. Narrative sense, logic, plot cohesion, characterisation, a rational view of women – all these things are discarded in favour of balls to the walls action nonsense. The whole point of this film is to outdo the antics of the first film: instead of a poisoned heart requiring adrenaline, this film sees the Chinese gangs take Chev’s heart out and replace it with an artificial one that constantly requires recharging. This sees him sticking his fingers in cigarette lighter sockets, being charged up by a car battery (as in the poster), or grabbing mains electricity, or (because, in movie world, static electricity works just as well) rubbing himself up against people, including an old woman, even with the friction of sex in public with Eve (with pixellated genitals). These are interspersed with manic shoot-outs, which include the ‘humour’ of a stripper’s silicone breasts being punctured by a bullet – the only way women are represented in the film are as semi-naked strippers, prostitutes or delirious Asian women (Bai Ling has a role in the film as an English-mangling prostitute, with acting direction seemingly to be as annoying as humanly possible). There is even a flashback scene where a young Chev is on a talk show with his mum (played by Geri Halliwell), where we find out that (a) Chev was always a nutter and (b) the kid playing him as a child does the worst cockney accent EVER on celluloid – yes, even worse than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
The only thing that makes this film worth watching is Statham – he plays the role completely straight and sells every stupid and inane set piece by sheer force of will; he is a shredded man of action who understands his place in the film and brings a certain action man charisma to the screen that has seen him through the likes of the three Transporter films. Because the writing and directing of the film are not particularly concerned with making good cinema or even a movie – Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have created a video game in filmic form as the player moves from level to level with villains and twists and lapses of logic that normal film critics wouldn’t even call ‘comic book’. A man who was killed in the first film is kept alive as a head in a liquid-filled container; Chev and the man who has his heart have a fight but as enlarged versions of themselves as if they were Godzilla; the final shoot-out sees a gang of black gay men, a group of strippers and the henchmen shooting at each other across a swimming pool (I think they’ve been reading too much Frank Miller, if you ask me …) But, a film where a man cuts off his own nipples to atone for his incompetency, David Carradine is ancient Triad leader who is the recipient of Chev’s heart (in make-up to make him look Chinese), and Statham sticks a shotgun up a gangster’s arse isn’t really dealing with reality. The idea is to switch your brain off, preferably be a young male (the casual sexism in both this and its predecessor makes me feel very uncomfortable) and enjoy some cinematic mayhem. Your mileage may vary.