"Crank" is masochistic, misogynistic, and, well, just about every other word that ends in 'istic' and doesn't start with 'real'. Like the Atari-inspired graphics that open and close the film (the latter standing as a cute post-credits bookend), the movie is as fast and chaotic as a shoot-'em-up video game, and first-time writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are damn proud of it. There's something safe and comfortable about "Crank" that is quite fetchingthis is certainly a guy's guy action flick that asks the viewer to leave their brains at the door and go along for the rideand yet there is simultaneously something off-kilter and dangerous about it when it becomes clear all bets are off and anything can happen to any of the characters.
Hitman-for-hire Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) wakes up in his bed to discover that he has been injected with a poison that will kill him in one hour. With his heart growing weaker, he only has one elixir that will temporarily keep him alive: his own adrenaline. Chev is desperate to accomplish three things before his impending death: see his girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart), and confess the truth to her; contact his unorthodox doctor (Dwight Yoakam) about a possible cure; and find the man responsiblein this case, a thug named Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo)and make him pay for what he's done.
"Crank" is akin to an action movie on speed, and, for that matter, an action movie like
"Speed," with a man's heartbeat taking the place of a bus. Shamelessly, blissfully R-rated with graphic violence, profane language and sexual content galore, the film does a neat job exploring the different ways a person might turn to fuel their adrenaline, even if that includes driving through a mall and crashing your car on the escalator, robbing a convenience store, or bending your girlfriend over a newspaper stand in the middle of L.A.'s Chinatown district and screwing her silly. With few moments to stop and take a breatherthese "plot"-centric scenes and flashbacks should have been cut altogether since they don't mean much in the long run"Crank" takes a page from 1999's "Run, Lola, Run" and presses forward with a full-throttle pace. The end result is thrilling and funny in an over-the-top way, but also sobering and a little empty once its thankfully uncompromising finale rears its head.
In recent years, Jason Statham (2005's "The Transporter 2
") has turned into one of the prime go-to guys for casting directors in search of cool British badassery. There's a reason for that: Statham perfectly embodies what it takes to be a cool badass. As Chev, Statham isn't stretching as an actor, but he certainly has the rugged good looks, the no-nonsense personality, the devilish glint in his eyes, and the unassuming masculinity down pat. As girlfriend Eve, Amy Smart (2005's "Just Friends
") excels beyond what the part calls for. On paper, she couldn't have been more than just a dumb blonde whose purpose is to be pulled along by the hand and, in one outrageous scene, picked up like a mannequin and tossed head-first through an opened car window. Smart embraces Eve's ditziness, but it is played as an endearing character trait rather than one to be mocked. Besides that, she seems like a cool chick herselfone who likes a good 5,000-piece puzzle on the living room table just as much as she savors giving oral favors to Chev as he speeds and swerves down a busy city street. Also showing up for a handful of scenes is Efren Ramirez, whose role of Chev's effeminate party-boy informer Kaylo is miles away from his most famous turn to datethat of the slow-witted but lovable Pedro in 2004's "Napoleon Dynamite
Keeping true to Chev's need for excitement to stay alive, "Crank" is a high-energy extravaganza of car chases, shootouts, fistfights, and criminal activity. It's all in the name of 87 minutes of cinematic junk food paradise, not to mention a fitting capper to the summer popcorn releases. At its center is a guy named Chev Chelios. He's flawed, he's ill-tempered (for good reason), he's a contract killer, and he's looking death straight in the eye. Even so, and to the credit of Jason Statham, he's a protagonist the viewer warms up to, wants to be around, and starts to actually care about. That, even more than the movie's physical acrobatics, is what makes "Crank" sizzle and pop. You might not remember it in the morning, but you'll be glad to have seen it all the same.