Sex, Guns and Blood Charge Crank: High Voltage
- Monday, April 20, 2009
DVD Release Date: September 8, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: April 17, 2009
Rating: R (for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language)
Run Time: 96 min.
Directors: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Clifton Collins Jr., Efren Ramirez, Bai Ling, David Carradine, Dwight Yoakam
There's so much to be repulsed by in this movie (a noun I use liberally in this case) that it's a little hard to know where to begin. Summing it up, though, is pretty easy: Crank: High Voltage is absolutely disgusting.
Like its predecessor Crank, this extreme-action sequel is the twenty-first century equivalent of ‘70s exploitation B-movie cinema—but taken to a whole other graphic level. Utterly pointless, intentionally ridiculous and very explicit as it revels in sex, guns and blood. It's not to be taken seriously, but that harmless intent is then used as an excuse to do anything and everything that comes to the sadistically juvenile minds of directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (makers of the first Crank). The resulting aesthetic is machismo at its most perverse.
Apparently picking up where the original left off, Crank: High Voltage follows the adrenaline-charged exploits of Chev Chelios (Jason Statham, star of the Transporter movies), a brash, indestructible hit man in the city of angels. The film opens after Chelios has survived a fall from an airplane (again, intentionally absurd). His body has been taken by underworld criminals who want to harvest his organs (while he remains conscious) and sell them on the black market.
After removing his heart but then replacing it with an artificial one (so as to keep him alive during the rest of the organ removals … I guess), Chelios summons the energy to leap from the surgical table and proceed to kill the people trying to ravage his remains. His heart, however, has already been taken from the premises, so the rest of the film follows Chelios as he pursues the people who have taken it before it's transplanted into a dying rival gang lord.
His artificial heart—partially charged by a connected box—doesn't have the power needed for Chelios to exert the Red Bull level of energy he needs, which leads to the film's one inspired recurring gag: Chelios must continually look for various means of giving himself a kick start. Jumper cables, shock collars, Tasers, and fuse boxes are just a few of the items Chelios jolts himself with along the way, fitting the silliness of the genre perfectly while offering fleeting laughs.
This also, however, leads to another option: create friction through sexual contact, most luridly enacted in a scene where Chelios and his stripper-girlfriend have aggressive intercourse (I kid you not) on a public horseracing track during an actual race in front of a packed stadium. The scene goes on at-length and is all-but-pornographic (lamely reduced to an R-rating due only to small digital blurs in key areas, but for all intents and purposes, it's porn).
Violence and mayhem are equally explicit and revolting. Elbows are cut off, genitals often attacked, bloody gunfights as well as hand-to-hand battles wreak plenty of gory damage, and Chelios even uses a shotgun to violate another man in the most invasive way possible. To see this graphically depicted is offensive enough; that it's played for laughs simply boggles the mind.
The visual style is as excessive as the content. Camera moves are ramped up, edits are constant, and the resulting tone plays like one feature-length meth trip. There really is no sense of pace; like a hardcore junkie, the movie takes one hit after the next, and its reality becomes increasingly psychedelic. It's all capped by a final shot in which the victorious hero—gleefully engulfed in flames—stares right at the camera and gives us the bird. That it inspires the viewer to return the expression in kind is proof enough that Crank: High Voltage is much worse than a waste of time; its only fruit is carnage to both the psyche and the soul.
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