A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching The Transporter 2, one of the most mind blowingly ludicrous films I have ever seen. I don’t think I’ve laughed quite so frequently in a long time, and it wasn’t a mocking laugh. It was a laugh of pure joy at the whole spectacle. So when I see a trailer for a film with the same star, playing a similar character in a similar genre, I was genuinely excited. Well, to protect my credibility as a “film critic”, we’ll say I was excited in an ironic way. Honest.
Crank is the story of LA hitman Chev Chelios. Just his name is brilliant. Who in their right mind calls their cockney son ‘Chev’? Anyway, Chev’s pissed a few folk off and wakes up to find he’s been poisoned with a ‘Chinese cocktail’ that will slowly kill him. The only way to slow it down is to keep his adrenaline levels high . So as Chev searches for revenge on his killers, he also has to take drastic action to bump up the old heart rate. This being a film aimed at teenage boys, said action involves drugs, sex and lots of violence.
Now, on skimming through my past cinema choices, this doesn’t exactly sound like my cup of tea. But as with Snakes on a Plane, if I’m in the right mood then I’m a sucker for silly action films, as long as they’re done well. And this one is genius. Take the premise for a start. When your lead has to keep the energy levels up, then there’s a perfect excuse for lots of insane action scenes, and no chance to slow things down for useless plot enhancement. Then take Jason Statham as Chev. I can’t figure out how this guy has wormed his way into the Hollywood action genre. He’s not brilliant when it comes to dialogue. His gruff, multi-cultural accent in the Transporter was part of the hilarity, but at least in Crank he’s allowed to be his Londoner self. And doesn’t have to say too much. Instead, he’s totally mastered the art of walking with purpose and looking really, really pissed off, and effortlessly carries the film on his bulky shoulders.
And then you have the direction. This film has not one, but two directors – Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor – who cut their teeth in the world of commercials. They’re a tag team of chaos, slogging one technique after another at you, sometimes with reason (slow mo/twisted vision for Chev’s poisoned decline) and sometimes with random absurdity (occasional hallucinations, utterly unexplainable subtitles). If it’s not split screen or freeze frame, then they’re using mock-up security camera footage and even satellite views of LA which are credited to Google Earth on screen (whether this is part of the style, or an actual legal requirement, is uncertain.) It certainly raises your own adrenaline levels, and as barmy scene after barmy scene flashes by, you can only watch in dazed amazement and smile. It certainly is silly, but in a surprisingly enjoyable way, and you can get sucked into the story enough to really care how, or if, Chev escapes his fate.
So hats off to the makers. By keeping it an 18 certificate they’re free to have gratuitous violence, nudity (not just female – there’s a fantastic scene where Chev overdoses on synthetic adrenaline in hospital, then has to sprint around LA in just a hospital robe, flashing bottom cheeks like there’s no tomorrow) and the strangest of soundtrack choices. Loud, brash, to the point. This is fun stuff, and delivers what you’d expect. An enjoyable way to spend 83 minutes, and for making me laugh in disbelief it’s getting CF0.