Crank (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

There's not much of a mystery about what Crank delivers. As promised, it's 85 minutes of action, with little in the way of encumbrances like dialogue and exposition, and only skeletal fragments of a narrative to keep things moving. For the most part, Crank rolls along with a tongue-in-cheek approach - the over-the-top action is delivered with a side order of cheese, and there's plenty of humor to accompany the testosterone and adrenaline (emphasis on "adrenaline") cocktail. In fact, since the only unique aspect of the action is the MTV-influenced manner in which the directors have chosen to frame their movie, one could argue that Crank works best as a comedy. It's occasionally funny, and some times very funny.

The story is as dumb as it sounds, but who cares? One doesn't attend Crank for incisive dialogue or intelligent plotting. Like Snakes on a Plane, it has a niche audience, and it aims to please them. (Plus, it outdoes Snakes' profanity by at least a factor of four.) Beware false advertising, however. Commercials for this movie are comparing it to Speed, and that's as unfair as it is inaccurate. Speed was a nail-biter; Crank won't damage any manicures. For those looking for something similar, how about the little-seen 1994 action/comedy The Chase, with Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson? Like Crank, that offered lots of unthreatening action alongside a helping of humor.

Chev Chelios (no-nonsense Jason Statham), ace hitman for mobster Carlito (Carlos Sanz), has been poisoned by punk gangster Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). He has less than an hour to live, and his friendly doctor, Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakim), is traversing the friendly skies and not close enough to provide immediate assistance. The only way for Chev to extend his life long enough to either obtain an antidote to the "Beijing cocktail" or kill everyone who was involved in eliminating him is to keep his adrenaline level consistently high. That means taking drugs, engaging in high-speed chases with the police, robbing stores, fighting people, and having public sex with his dumb blond girlfriend, Eve (a delightfully ditzy Amy Smart). If Chev slows down, he risks lapsing into a coma, but how long can his heart take the adrenaline rush?

There are times when Crank feels less like a movie than an opportunity for co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor to show off. They throw every stylistic technique imaginable at the viewer: split screens, distorted images, first-person shots, slow-motion, fast-motion, still photographs, animated representations of the heart, subtitles, and more. There's a scene in which Chev is talking to someone on a cell phone and that person's picture appears on a nearby wall. There's no doubt the directors' approach amps up the energy level, but there's a sense it crosses the line into overkill. Even in a movie we're never expected to take even a little seriously, it's too much.

Crank was not screened for critics, which was arguably a mistake. Stuffy, overly serious writers might not like what the movie has to offer, but most will take it in the intended spirit. For those who enjoy this brand of wholly mindless entertainment, Crank delivers. It also cements Labor Day as Jason Statham Day. The British tough guy, who can keep a straight face in the midst of carnage, mayhem, and ripe dialogue, ruled the roost a year ago with The Transporter 2, and now he's back to try again. Fortunately, as long as you're in the right mood, there's nothing laborious about sitting through this breezy, bloody feature.

Crank (United States, 2006)

Run Time: 1:25
U.S. Release Date: 2006-09-01
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1