They call it the “Beijing cocktail” and when it’s injected into your bloodstream you’ve got about an hour to live. The science behind the drug is cloudy. But all you need to know is that it slows your heart to a crawl. A deadly crawl. The only solution is adrenalin. Lots and lots of adrenalin. When contract killer Chev Chelios (Jason Statham
) is pumped full of “Beijing cocktail” he catches on quick that to survive – see his girl, kill the man who doped him, even some scores – he’s got to keep moving. Keep pumped. This means we’re treated to roughly 90 minutes of Statham ingesting, swilling, snorting or injecting every drug, energy drink and caffeine powder he can find. Exactly 85 minutes of Statham racing through downtown L.A., bowling over pedestrians, shooting mobsters, brawling with gang bangers and having sex in public. Eighty-five minutes of Statham doing anything and everything possible to keep his heart beating as rapidly as it can. Crank is trashy, vulgar, violent, and every bit as excessive as you’d imagine. I loved every delirious minute of it.
The best parts of the film are those you don’t expect. We know that Statham, being a hit man (and British at that), will go after the men who wronged him. We know he’ll get into all manner of complications along the way. That’s Action Film 101. Where Crank excels is in its inventiveness. Like Pulp Fiction before it (or the recent, underrated Running Scared) the thrill is in the unexpected turns. And the plot of Crank is geared for constant invention. Stratham needs to stay mobile, needs to stay pumped, so the film never passes up an opportunity to shove some action his way. When Statham begins to flag (the sound flutters, the picture dims) and he needs an adrenaline fix, the audience is cued for another round. It’s almost William Castle-like in its fun gimmickry. Article continues below
It’s therefore fitting that co-writers/directors Mark Neveldine
and Brian Taylor
throw every imaginable angle and edit into this crazy mix: split screen, solariztion, overcranking, undercranking, CGI, slo mo, still photography. They cut their teeth as behind the scenes wunderkinds – stunt coordination, cinematography – and Crank comes across like a speed freak hybrid of every film they’ve ever worked on. There is nothing avant garde here however. The tricks are all in the service of the over-caffeinated action. Imagine Run Lola Run without the artsy pretension. And then add some crack.
Statham reprises the thug role he perfected in the Transporter films. But this time he’s giving the whole thing a thorough ribbing. The best of the cast plays against type: Efren Ramirez
(Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite) is a flaming club kid while Dwight Yoakam
(Sling Blade) is a sleazy mob doc.
Down and dirty (the title screen looks like it was designed for a Sega Genesis game) and bursting with ‘80s hard rock (not to mention the weird ‘70s exploitation stylish asides), Crank tears up the screen like a muscle car on fire – a brash, sinfully stupid joyride.