Many action movies promote themselves as high adrenaline, but Crank, directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, is the real deal. Literally. Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), a hit man, wakes up in his apartment to discover that he’s been injected by an obscure Chinese poison which will kill him within the hour. In order to survive—and to track down Verano (Jose Pablo Cantillo) the underworld thug who injected him with the “Beijing Cocktail”—he must keep his adrenaline level up. Chev does this by every means at his disposal: getting into fights, racing around Los Angeles, injecting himself with epinephrine, and even getting a defibrillator shock.
This is a film that dispenses with unnecessary back-story and gradual starts. Crank rockets out of the gate from the start with high octane camera work and dizzying action. The central conceit—almost like the movie Speed (1994) in human form—requires a certain suspension of disbelief; but luckily Crankdoesn’t take itself too seriously and is as funny as it is wild.
Jason Statham’s Chev Chelios is the distillation of many characters he’s played before, such as Frank Martin in The Transporter (2002) and Jake in Revolver(2005). Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor claim that Statham is the only real action star in town, the natural heir to Bruce Willis. It’s difficult not to agree. Statham has natural charm, acting skills and physicality (he was a member of Britain’s National Diving Squad for ten years). He also shares Willis’ receding hairline.
This is Statham’s film, and the other players are either forgettable hoodlums (such as Jose Pablo Cantillo as Verona) or disposable side characters (like Efren Ramirez as the under-developed Kaylo). Only Amy Smart as Eve, Chev’s slightly ditzy girlfriend, shines with a great comedic performance.
Crank will not be winning any awards any time soon, and is highly unlikely to make the Academy Award shortlist; but it’s certainly a fun film, with some superb set-pieces. Chev and Eve having sex in the middle of LA’s Chinatown, in front of a pleasantly shocked crowd, has to be seen to be believed. The directors constantly wink at the audience, as if to say, can you believe we’re getting paid to put this on screen? They’re like kids at the genre candy shop.
Occasionally the film comes perilously close to overshooting its target; and an ill-advised Al-Qaeda joke that only succeeds thanks to its over the top denouement. But mostly, Crank rains down surefooted hits on its audience with confidence and regularity.
Crank is an extreme film, full of violence and jet black humour, that knows exactly what its audience wants. It’s clear that first time writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are fanboys themselves, who want to make the ultimate action movie with all the unnecessary flab trimmed away. The lean result will leave you as exhausted and breathless as its protagonist.