Crank: High Voltage
Sequel surpasses original for in-your-face non-stop action
Monday, April 27, 2009
OMG! That about sums up my reaction to "Crank: High Voltage" (now playing throughout San Diego). OMG I can't believe they actually made that film. And OMG I can't believe it was actually a fun ride. This may be as close as you can get these days to what a grindhouse film is like. I know I'm getting to "Crank: High Voltage" late but Lionsgate didn't screen it for the press and I had low expectations based on the first "Crank" film. But I just saw "High Voltage" and I have to say that it's the first film to actually capture and convey what it's like to play a video game. All those other video game movies ("Resident Evil," "Silent Hill," "Doom," etc.) had no clue how to make a video game come alive on the big screen. All those filmmakers could come up with was to have a camera follow the main participants like a variation of a first person shooter perspective. But since viewers have no control over the characters in a movie as they do in a video game, these movies ended up rather dull and detached. But I have to give "Crank: High Voltage" director Mark Neveldine (who's now going by the singular moniker of Neveldine) for capturing the feel and energy of a video game like no other film I can recall. Now for some of you out there that might be considered a negative. But "High Voltage" is an in your face, obnoxious, offensive, gratuitous thrill ride with about as much humanity and sense of morality as "Grand Theft Auto." And I mean that as a compliment.
Jason Statham reprises his role as Chev Chelios. In the first Crank he was given a poison that required him to keep his heart racing in order to stay alive till he got an antidote. This time, someone's removed his heart - literally - and put in an artificial one to keep him alive just long enough to harvest some organs. But Chelios escapes and this time he needs jolts of electricity to keep the fake heart pumping. The first "Crank," as outlandish as it was, made a meager attempt to keep one little toe rooted in the real world, and in a sense that ruined it for me and slowed the pace. But for High Voltage, Neveldine (who also helmed the first film) throws all pretenses of credibility out the window. Anything goes now and Neveldine doesn't bother to explain any of it. Chelios can get shot and live, can take high voltage and thrive, and can basically be indestructible. The film should come with a warning to kids: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME...ANY OF IT.
Like a video game character, Chelios keeps dying and reviving. When he starts to run down he just powers up, gathers some health points and reboots essentially He's indestructible and picks up necessary items along the way to keep him going. The film pays homage to video games like "GTA" with its wild car scenes, blood stained streets and endless supply of hookers. There's even a tribute to Godzilla game battle royales with a bizarre and surreal fight in which Statham and his opponent appear in rubber suits of themselves and have a giant kaiju battle in which they appear to be fifty feet tall. What the heck is that all about????
The violence and endless and shots are so blatantly gratuitous and offensive that they become a running gag. The film, which apparently was shot with consumer grade cameras, has a dingy, distressed look that is sometimes drained of color, other times oversaturated. It's mostly handheld work but with more determined intent and more appropriate results than most other films. Neveldine, who did much of the handheld camerawork himself, then plays with the images to further alter them through various computer effects, but none of them high end. The film also mimics video games in the way it uses satellite maps to pull out of the action, locate the protagonist and his objectives, and then follow his movements from high above, zooming back in for the action. And like a video game, Chelios bumps into characters who provide necessary information and then they are dropped from the story after serving their purpose. Plus there are just odd moments like having Chelios suddenly whistle along with the film's soundtrack.
Statham gives a one-note performance as the amped up and out for revenge Chelios. But this is a film that only requires one note so he's perfect. The film also has a great cameo by David (Kung Fu) Carradine as an aging Asian Triad who wants to extend his life by harvesting Chelios' organs. Clifton Collins Jr, is almost unrecognizable as he appears briefly as The Ferret.
Anyone with good taste is advised to stay away from this crude film. But if you love gaming or want to know why your teenage son can't put his controller down, then this is the film for you. It's constantly in motion and makes no apologies for disregarding reality or any semblance of narrative. Sh*t just happens cause Neveldine thinks it's funny or cool with no thought for any connection or transition from one idea or scene to another.
"Crank: High Voltage" (rated R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language - I don't think a publicist could have phrased it better) is one sequel that surpasses its original. That's not saying much but it sure knows how to move, it's pure kinetic, brutal energy. Enjoy with a Monster Java.
Companion viewing: "Run, Lola, Run," "Crank," "D.O.A."