Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ow, that hurt all my senses at once…

I seem to have the exact same reaction to every Jason Statham movie. At first I think it looks absolutely terrible. Then I really, really want to see it. Then I see it and realize that it was both absolutely terrible and absolutely awesome. This leads me to a night of dubious distinction, a Crank mini-marathon in which a small group of intrepid friends joined me for a night of drink and Crank and Crank: High Voltage.

Plot is hardly either Crank's strong suit, so I guess consider this your SPOILER WARNING, in as much as it's possible to spoil a movie with almost no plot. So let's get the plots, such as they are, out of the way now. In Crank, Jason Statham plays Chev Chelios, a mob hit man who is poisoned and the only way to hold off death by heart failure is to constantly keep his adrenaline pumping. In Crank: High Voltage, Chelios has had his heart stolen and replaced with a mechanical one that requires constant electrical jolts to keep it from failing. In both movies, Chelios goes on a violent rampage through the streets of Los Angeles, killing multitudes of people, causing near limitless amounts of property damage, all while trying to track down salvation from his imminent demise.

The two movies are fairly similar. Both are hyper-stylized, filmed and edited in a post-MTV sensory barrage. The experience is akin to watching a hard-R 90 minute music video, and it is as awesome, bizarre, and exhausting as that might sound. The stylistic flourishes on display can be so constant, varied, and fast-paced that it almost defies description. In terms of content, Crank and Crank: High Voltage are both filled to the brim with unending, extremely graphic violence. For instance, in one memorable moment from Crank, Chelios chops off a man's hand and the man then proceeds to take a swing at Chelios only to miss and punch the pavement with his bloody stump. And that could probably be considered fairly tame (if more cringe-inducing) compared to the rest of the movie.

Despite the fact that Crank and Crank: High Voltage are so similar, it's kind of astounding how different my reaction to each movie was. I thought Crank was extremely fun, well made, and surprisingly witty (more clever than intelligent, but occasionally witty nonetheless). The movie is definitely inventive and a whole lot of fun, assuming you have a tolerance for comical over-the-top violence, irreverence, and a healthy dose of absurdism. One of my favorite moments is when Chelios goes to a hospital to steal a shot of artificial adrenaline. He forgets how much his doctor (played by Dwight Yokum of all people) told him to take, and ends up taking five times as much as he was supposed to. Upon realizing this, he shoots out of the elevator and sprints down the streets of LA, going full tilt in a hospital gown, on the phone with his doctor, while an erection visibly flops around under his gown. (That may sound stupid in writing, and is also stupid in the movie, but it's still incredibly funny. If this sounds just regular stupid and you can't see any reason why this would be appealing, Crank probably isn't for you.)

Crank: High Voltage, on the other hand, is the kind of movie that you walk away from feeling a little stupider than you did before you watched it. Even the paper thin plot is abandoned fairly quickly, as the movie dissolves into a mind-numbing series of increasingly bizarre and nonsensical events. The most egregious example of this is when Chelios chases a Chinese gangster toting Chelios's heart in an ice cooler into an electrical transformer. After Chelios charges his heart by grabbing the transformer, he mutates into a giant Godzilla-monster version of himself, the Chinese gangster also inexplicably mutates into a giant, and they fight for a while before they both inexplicably change back to normal. The rest of movie tries to push the envelope with results that are mixed at best. It's not a total loss and there are some pretty great moments (the movie opens with Chelios literally being scraped off the pavement with a snow shovel), but those moments are overshadowed by absolutely horrible ones that are sprinkled liberally throughout. For instance, a shoot out in a strip club involves a stripper having her breast implant shot and ruptured, spewing silicon all over, and in another scene an obese gangster is sodomized with a motor oil covered shot gun. All-in-all, the hit to miss ratio in Crank: High Voltage is pretty bad.

I can honestly say that if you think Crank might appeal to you, you should really, really check it out. It's an extremely fun, entertaining movie, and surprisingly inventive at times. While Crank: High Voltage wasn't a total waste, I was ultimately pretty disappointed. I guess if you walk away from Crank thinking to yourself, "you know, that movie was kind of slow and boring and way too plot heavy," then maybe Crank: High Voltage will be right up your alley. (All that being said, I'm already pretty jazzed about the possibility of a third Crank movie.)

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