Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Pervasive Language, Sexuality, Nudity and Drug Use
Directed by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Written by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Carlos Sanz, Dwight Yoakam, Efren Ramirez, Keone Young & Reno Wilson
Jason Statham isn’t exactly known for starring in great movies, but rather silly, fun action flicks. CRANK is Statham’s best straight-up action flick that I’ve seen thus far. I don’t only love this cinematic rollercoaster ride for exactly what it is, but I also truly appreciate Neveldine/Taylor’s fearless filmmaking prowess. Is CRANK loaded with blood, sex, and Statham? Absolutely. Does it rely on a preposterous plot? Yep. Do either of these things hinder it in any way? Nope. In fact, they make for the equivalent of cinematic cocaine. CRANK is 100% non-stop, gleefully insane, and adrenaline-fueled fun injected straight into the viewer’s eyeballs. It’s definitely not for everyone, but those who are into this sort of thing are likely to love the hell out of it.
Gun-for-hire Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) has woken up to a nasty surprise. A rival gang member has injected him with the fatally poisonous Beijing cocktail and he only has one hour left to live…tops. This Chinese shit (as it’s repeatedly called) is cutting off Chev’s adrenaline, so the only chance he has at staying alive is to keep his adrenaline pumping. With his final moments ticking away, Chev must say goodbye to his girlfriend and enact revenge on the thugs who poisoned him…all while doing whatever he can to keep his energy high.
Much like its borderline psychotic main character, CRANK is a non-stop train of lunacy. The film is about a guy who needs to keep his adrenaline up, so the pacing moves at an appropriately frenzied speed for its 88-minute running time. There’s never a wasted moment as we watch Chev constantly charge his adrenaline through random acts of violence, daredevil stunts, and darkly hilarious mayhem. The film caps this insanity off with stylistic touches that serve as icing on the cake. A couple of the first sequences are shot from a well-executed first person POV (including one frantic run through an apartment complex) while Google Maps serves as a constant guideline for Chev’s surroundings. The visuals slightly distort during every moment that Chev’s heart-rate begins to drop and one hilarious use of visual profanity only further cements Neveldine/Taylor’s demented vision with a juvenile sense of humor.
The most impressive thing about CRANK is how well made it is. This pair of directors/writers know how to get their story across with a relatively small budget, two cameras, and lots of hands-on stunt work (yes, that’s really Jason Statham fighting a dude in a helicopter hovering 3,000 feet in the air). You can tell that a lot of love, care, and ingenuity was put into this project and it translates onto the screen during every second of the film. The only two real stars to speak of are Jason Statham and Amy Smart. While Smart is basically the naïve girlfriend primed to be a clichéd damsel-in-distress, the screenplay takes a slightly more dramatic route with her character.
It’s worth noting that while I love Jason Statham in most of his roles, he’s usually playing the same character with different names. Chev Chelios actually seems identifiable as a character that sticks out in Statham’s filmography as well as the biggest bad-ass he’s played in a movie…ever. Though he’s still somewhat playing action hero Statham, Chev is a much more crazed version of that. Statham also displays great comedic timing that got huge laughs out of me. His facial expressions are priceless and the cheesy one-liners are delivered to perfection. It was really odd to see Statham deliver intentional humor in a film that simultaneously utilizes many fantastic action sequences, but it worked almost flawlessly.
CRANK is a well-put-together blast of pure action-packed insanity and should be appreciated as such. It’s not entirely free from clichés (one reveal at the end feels like a bit of a cheat), but I had a complete and utter blast watching this film. Jason Statham has never been better. The visuals look slick and the sheer talent on display is undeniable. Some of the stunt work is mind-boggling (I have to imagine certain scenes were a nightmare to shoot, but wound up totally worth it in the end). CRANK is action movie gold forged by a combination of dark humor, non-stop momentum, sarcastic attitude, and sheer style. This movie is friggin’ awesome and one might go as far as calling it “a modern action classic!”