With a concept so high even a fever-addled Luc Besson couldn’t conceive of it, first time writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor pitch us headlong into “Crank” with no preamble. We start, as does Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) with little clue about what has happened or what’s about to unfold. Fortunately, there’s a bit of found footage hijinks where the villain of the piece, Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) lets Chelios in on a little scret: after an apparently botched hit, Chelios has been marked for death. In fact, he’s already dead. Coursing through his veins is a designer poison from China which will kill him in mere minutes. A doctor friend clues CHelios in that there may be a way to survive: keep his adrenalin levels up and it will hold the poison at bay. And so the stage is set for an epic quest for revenge, with our hero compelled to make sure things stay as action-packed as possible.
A criticism often levelled at Jason Statham is that he basically plays the same character in every movie he’s in. But the thing is, he plays it with such panache that it’s hard to grumble and in “Crank”, he reaches the apotheosis of his persona. His Chev Chelios is 100% pure glowering, cussing, bruising mayhem. Swaggering through the sundrenched LA landscape with a very British chip on his shoulder, he takes his badassery to new heights, backed by the cartoony ultra-violent aestethics of Neveldine/ Taylors’ world.
This film is essentially an extended Grand Theft Auto III mission brought chaotically and unashamedly to lurid, seedy and immoral life, its sensibilities are informed by computer games, cartoons and lascivious music videos. Gratuitous is the watchword here, and excess a close second so there’s gallons of blood spattering across the screen and plenty of female flesh to ogle. Misogyny is rife throughout and it’s only a sense of sly, satirical wit permeating the whole affair that stops some of the more questionable moments from crossing over into bad taste.
Supporting Statham in his adventure is Dwight Yoakam as Doc Miles (aka Doctor Exposition) who keep us updated with the latest poison driven plot point, Efran Ramirez as Kaylo and Amy Smart as Chelios’ long-suffering girlfriend Eve. Eve mainly gets used and abused throughout the film as she gets tangled up in her boyfriend’s shenanigans but despite being little more than a prop for a comedy sex scene set in Chinatown, the film ends with a surprisingly sweet and poignant phone call from Chev. The final showdown set on an overly interior-designed sun terrace is as ballistic as you’d expect and culminates in a most unexpected ‘ending’.
The (often literally) breakneck pace of the film stops you from ever contemplating just how ludicrous the whole thing is, and while it is brutal, bloody and action packed you never sense for one minute that it takes itself or its whacky premise remotely seriously. The end result is an absolute blast, a perfect match of star and material and one of the best pure action films of the past decade.