Jason Statham remains the most mysterious of action heroes. Sure, he's muscular and menacing, with a fašade both funny and frightening. But take him away from all the bare-knuckled bedlam, and he's nothing but a ready ripped torso. In films like Death Race and The Transporter, he's often nothing more than a cut clothesline to hang stunts on. The same could be said for his work in the grand guilty pleasure Crank. As a man who must find the antidote to a poison he was purposely given, Statham was all adrenaline and attitude. Lionsgate hopes to continue the cult with the mandatory sequel High Voltage -- and you know what, it's a terrific sleazoid treat.
When last we saw Chev Chelios (Statham), the unstoppable hitman had seemingly survived a freefall from an airborne helicopter. Now, he's been kidnapped by Asian mobsters who want to harvest his vital organs. Chelios escapes, soon learning that he must keep the batteries managing his artificial heart charged while Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) tries to figure out a way to put the real one back in. Hoping to find his stolen body part, Chelios scours Los Angeles, running into old girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), insane hooker Ria (Bai Ling), and various criminal types. It seems that all paths lead to a shady Chinese mobster named Poon Dong (David Carradine). In typical Chelios fashion, however, the way is fraught with cops, criminals, and some incredibly crazy circumstances. Article continues below
If movies where mental patients, Crank: High Voltage would be dangerously psychotic with delusions of grandeur. Sadly, such a diagnosis comes nowhere near explaining the rip-roaring ridiculousness of Statham's return to the famed Chev Chelios character. This is cinema as sugar rush, a nonstop barrage of references, homages, and inventions that add up to fuel-injected fun for the newly pubescent crowd. Adults will be shocked by the language and violence, while women will be protesting the ample nudity and slight misogyny. But if you're 14 to 18, hopped up on hormones, fresh off your daily dose of Ritalin, and ready to have your short attention span verbally and visually assaulted, you'll be in for a toxic trip.
Indeed, High Voltage offers nothing that we didn't see last time out. Writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor could be accused of being one trick ponies, except that their filmic stunts are so much fun to watch. Throwing everything at the audience including slow-mo, split screen, rabid editing, and a few choice cameos, the movie feels like an inside joke told only to members of a meth-addicted secret society -- if your laughs depend on how far you're willing to drop your pretenses and how much you enjoy seeing bad guys get their artillery-laced comeuppance. One scene in particular has Chelios crashing a "social club" (read: crack house) and systematically dismantling everything inside -- and that includes prostitutes, johns, and various local hoods.
You have to give the filmmaking duo credit -- they bob and weave like prizefighters trying to work in past players (Yoakam's doc, Smart's Eve) while introducing a plethora of supporting weirdoes, including crazed Asian whore Ling, mullet-headed moron Corey Haim (yes, THE Corey Haim), and Carradine as chief bad guy Poon Dong. In fact, the name of the Kung Fu/Kill Bill's character is rather indicative of the level of wit expelled by this effort. Another example? Chelios and his gal pal create friction (to fuel his ticker's battery) by having unabashed sex in the middle of a horse track -- right on the finish line -- during the race. While it's not as goofy as the porn stars' strike (don't ask), it's par for High Voltage's crude course.
Unabashedly shameless and willing to try anything for the sake of a jolt, Crank: High Voltage is like a convenience store corn dog. It's undeniably bad for you, but satisfies like little else.