September 11, 2006


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What would you get if you cross Harold and Kumar with The Transporter? Well, in short, Crank.

The film opens with some prismatic 8-bit Nintendo graphics that will make you question for a moment whether or not you’re in the right theater, but shortly thereafter, a groggy Chev Chelios (Stratham) stumbles about after awaking from a deadly injection that prevents his body from producing adrenaline. The audience learns that Chelios is a freelance hitman who recently let his last target slip away in hopes of leaving the business to start a new life with his girlfriend Eve (Smart). But it appears that things just got a little more complicated — now time is running out for Chelios, and, unless he can keep his body moving, he’ll be dead within the hour. The rest of the movie follows Chelios as he searches for Ricky Verrona, the rival hitman who poisoned him, and an antidote while popping energy pills and doing anything for a rush.

Laden with high speed chases, shoot outs, and yes, boobies, this flick appears to have all the necessary ingredients for a true action movie. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor use some interesting cinematic tricks that make the audience feel as if they too are on an adrenaline high. The classic “shaky hand-held camera” technique works surprisingly well and keeps viewers on their toes for the next turn. Though at times you might wish that they’d let Statham go through hell instead of dragging you along with him. Some of the aspects that made the hit Man on Fire so powerful, such as screen text, voice-overs, and fast paced filming, are also used here, but in no way do they add the same effect Instead, it ends up lampooning themselves and the main character.

Essentially, Statham mocks himself and his situation throughout the entirety of the movie and the supporting characters do little to redeem him. Amy Smart is her usual as she portrays his slightly ditzy and disbelieving girlfriend, and Dwight Yoakam is only one step above, as he recalls his unique character from Wedding Crashers for his role as Chelios’s careless doctor. Ramirez, who has one of the smallest parts, is definitely not the friendly Pedro Sanchez and now plays the very unusual sidekick of Chelios. The way in which all of these fairly shallow characters come together does provide some laughs, and relief, for the audience.

Although it may be short on quality, one thing Crank does not lack are stunts and violence. In an effort to keep forcing his body to create adrenaline, Chelios drives his car through a shopping mall, wreaks havoc in a hospital in an attempt to gain access to epinephrine (synthetic adrenaline), and even fornicates with girlfriend Eve against a newspaper stand in front of a bus filled with Asian schoolgirls. The fight scenes are nonetheless extremely exciting and are, at times, fairly well-choreographed.

All, however, employ enough blood spatter and gore to take your mind off their stylistic elements, or lack thereof as the case may be. One of my personal favorites involves the chopping off a man’s hand as Chelios boasts, “How freakin’ awesome was that!” And yes, it was pretty freakin’ awesome.
The fight scenes cannot make up for the lack of personality in the characters or lack of substance overall. If you’re looking for another Italian Job, Snatch, or any other crime movie that actually requires some semblance of an attention span, then this is not your film. But for a few simple, mindless laughs and an action-filled 87 minutes, it may be worth the trip. The jury is still out on whether or not Crank is so bad it’s good, or so bad that it’s just bad.