A man admits when he’s wrong. I didn’t like Crank. It was hyped up too much for me. I also had problems with Shoot ‘Em Up (full review), mostly the political subplot. But Crank: High Voltage was great! Sure, it’s the same as the first movie, but … different.
I revisited the first Crank film with Milky last night to see if I’d judge it less harshly, after enjoying its amped-up, even more offensive sequel. And you know what? I like the original better now. It starts off a tad slow, while the sequel slams hard into passing gear, because it doesn’t have to set things up as much. We know Chev Chelios is a bad-ass with a lot of enemies, who’d inject him with a poison requiring adrenaline rush to survive, or replace his heart with an artificial one that can be charged with jumper cables to his nippy nips.
Chelios opts to ground the cable on his tongue, actually. These movies are the ultimate in cartoonish action, surpassing the first Transporter. I originally bristled at the cartoon moniker these over-the-top action movies were given. It felt like an excuse to eschew any sort of realism, to apologize in advance for badly conceived stunts and jittery editing. But I just didn’t get it. These movies are comedies, spoofs of a sort. In Crank, when Chelios is learning just how shitty his predicament is, while on the phone with his pal Doc Miles (a perfectly cast Dwight Yoakam) he drives through a shopping mall and crashes his car onto an escalator. At first I sneered because The Blues Brothers did this already, but writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor don’t play it as anything insane. Chev does it nonchalantly, and that’s what’s funny about it.
The movies are full of stereotypes, ethnic and whatnot; Statham himself is barely a character, he’s the tough Brit mobster who hops the puddles to clean American clocks; we’ve seen him before. It doesn’t help that the movie is entirely embedded in the underworld, so everyone’s a tattooed gangster. A fellow blogger was disgusted at the stereotypes, but I didn’t find them any more hateful than Fat Tony the Italian mobster on The Simpsons. When Chev is banging his girlfriend against a mailbox in Chinatown and old ladies are gasping, and a busload of Japanese tourist schoolgirls in sailor outfits crashes and starts taking pictures, I can’t see it as disparaging Asian-Americans, and that is something rampant in film today (and one reason I didn’t go see The Goods). If anything, the Crank movies are video games- they have the premise of one, the structure, and the characters. If The Hidden (full review) inspired Vice City, Crank was inspired by it. And they are a whole lot of fun.