By Vic Holtreman
Short version: An insane, bloody, gratuitous, funny rollercoaster of a movie that doesn't pretend to be anything beyond that
Going in, the one thing I didn't expect this movie to be was funny. I had more laugh out loud moments during Crank than I did while watching the supposed comedy Clerks II. Before you decide to go see this, be aware that it earns its R-rating on every level: content, situations, language, violence, gore, sex and nudity. (Fine, now everyone will rush out to go see it.)
Jason Statham, whose first action-star vehicle was The Transporter (followed by Transporter 2) plays an assassin who has been injected with a deadly drug that will kill him if his heart rate drops slows a certain point. He has two goals during the film:
1. Find an antidote.
2. Exact revenge on the person who did this to him.
In case you think there is any more depth or subtlety to the plot than that, forget it. The thing that made this film work for me (for a one-time viewing anyway, as Statham's films tend to do) is that the makers of the film knew exactly what sort of popcorn/action film they were working on and didn't have any pretentions of it being anything other than filled with "cool" and non-stop action.
There's not really a lot I need to go into as far as the story... Statham wakes up and we ride along briefly for a dizzying stumble-around-the-apartment POV scene. He finds a DVD with a rather rude description written on it, pops it in and discovers the who, the what and the why of the situation. He starts making calls to try to fulfill both of his tasks immediately, and once he hits the road he discovers the fact that keeping his heart racing is what staves off the fatal effects of the poison.
The shooting style of the movie was really interesting... kind of like a music video on acid. It was frantic, with lots of interesting effects to convey both his metabolic slow-down and his acceleration, and although the pace was really fast, for some reason I didn't feel the jarring sensation I usually get from the recent quick-cut movie editing style. Subtitles appeared here and there throughout the film, usually for humourous effect.
This flick certainly earns its R-rating because it's violent and bloody as all get-out, plus there were more than a few scenes with nudity which were completely and utterly gratuitous. I'm no prude, but they actually took me out of the movie... that's how obvious it was that they were showing breasts just because, well... guys like to see breasts. There was also a sex scene that takes place in the middle of Chinatown as well as a scene that takes place in a moving car. At least those two scenes made sense within the context of the movie, however the one that takes place in Chinatown made me wonder why no one tried to help Statham's very naive girlfriend, since it would seem to passers-by (at least at first) that she was being raped. A portion of the non-believability factor comes in via the depiction of the girlfriend, who thinks that Statham is a video-game programmer. Her reaction to his true occupation and her priorities once she's in danger (I know we're being shot at with machine guns, but I dropped my purse!!!) was more than a bit annoying.
This is utterly and completely a "guy movie" in every sense of the phrase. As I've said, plenty of non-stop action with some of it played intentionally for laughs. Jason Statham definitely has the stuff to be an action star... I just wish he'd find something with a bit more meat to it or a script that would allow him to emote a bit more. He's more akin to a Terminator than to John McClain. One thing I missed was that he didn't have much hand to hand combat in the film and he is a very accomplished martial artist.
So if you don't mind all the R-rated stuff mentioned above and you're looking for a check-your-brain-at-the-door actioner, Crank might be right up your alley.