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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

Crank: High Voltage (review)

So Wrong, So Right

Just. So. Wrong. Seriously. Like, take a look back at everything I wrote about the first Crank, and how wrong and evil and amoral and filthy and sordid that flick was, and double it. No, quintuple it.

Also: quintuple how much I laughed.
Oh, I know we’re not supposed to intellectualize a movie like this one, because it’s all just baddest-of-badasses Jason Statham running around Los Angeles giving himself electric shocks every five minutes just to stay alive (see, cuz his heart has been involuntarily donated to– well, I’ll get to that) and man! it’s just so cool that he is one crazy-ass motherfucker! shit! But I can’t help it: there’s reasons why I can laugh spontaneously at the mayhem and the murder and the sweeping just-plain-wrongness here when most other iterations of similar stuff leaves me cold. And I think I owe it you, dear reader, and to anyone who relies on me for moviegoing advice, to explain.

Mostly, it’s because the writing-and-directing team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are crazy-ass paradigm-busting convention-ignoring badass cinematic motherfuckers. Shit! They ain’t having fun with vulgarity or violence: vulgarity and violence are merely their medium. They are having fun with movies, and with what we think movies can do or are supposed to do.

Look: When we left Statham’s (Death Race, The Bank Job) Chev Chelios at the close of Crank, he was falling out of a helicopter. He was falling out a helicopter. And High Voltage picks up right there. Chev Chelios is still falling out of that helicopter. And Neveldine and Taylor do not cheat by having Chelios wake up out of dream — ha ha! he wasn’t actually falling out of a helicopter at all! — or by letting the whole rest of the movie unfurl as a flashback that happens just before Chev hits the ground. No: Chev Chelios hits the ground. And then he is, um, collected off the street in a manner that would more befit something the Road Runner might do to collect a flattened Wile E. Coyote off the pavement. Holy Chuck Jones, but I laughed at that: They used a what? No!

This is when, of course, that Chev Chelios is elevated to a sort of cinematic godhood, becomes the apotheosis of the indestructible action hero: when he does not die after plunging to the earth from a helicopter high above Los Angeles. Neveldine and Taylor have given themselves the freedom to do whatever they fucking want to Chelios after that, and it’s cool, and we can’t complain about it. And that’s okay too, because Neveldine and Taylor explicitly call bullshit on themselves before going any further, which then allows them to actively dispense with plausibility and make a virtue of outrageous coincidence. Which they do, again and again, up to the point and then beyond the point at which you can’t believe they thought they could keep getting away with it.

The constant escalation to their inventive insanity is so breathtaking, it’s like a slap in the face to the tired hacks who make the glossy hidebound junk that passes for an action movie these days. Amping up the explosions and crashing a wider variety of vehicles into one another does not constitute “taking the action movie to a new level.” Fucking pulling your hero’s heart of his chest and forcing him to chase after it does.

And I haven’t even mentioned how Neveldine and Taylor made their magnificently godforsaken little sequel on the cheap with camcorders they bought at Best Buy. Take that, Michael Bay.

Right: so Chev wakes up after the helicopter plunge to discover that his heart is being stolen to be transplanted into the 100-year-old Chinese mobster who’s impressed that Chev survived that cocktail of poisons he’d been injected with in the first movie. And by “wakes up to discover,” I mean, of course, that Chelios awakens during the course of this demented surgery to see his own ticker being lifted out of his chest, and a battery-powered artificial heart being dropped in. (Why not let Chelios die? Oh, you’ll see.) But this is hardly a thing for a man who survived falling out of a helicopter, and it’s barely the beginning of the crazy shit that Neveldine and Taylor will put him through.

There’s an ugly-beautiful inevitability to Crank: High Voltage, as if this is where The Movies had to go, as soon as someone had the balls to take them there. Thank Chuck Jones for Neveldine and Taylor. I can’t even begin to imagine what they’ve got in mind for Crank 3.


MPAA: rated R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine

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