Crank may seem like an offensive, gimmicky insult but give it a chance. It knows what it’s doing and it’s awesome. Opening with a first person sequence and throwing the profanities around makes Crank look like a bunch of kids playing around with a movie camera, but they start having fun with themselves pretty quickly and it all pays off.
Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) wakes up one morning feeling not so fresh. A DVD-rom left by his TV features a gang leader injecting him with poison and bragging about it. With one hour to live, Chev dashes out looking for a cure. His doctor informs him that the only antidote to the poison is adrenaline, so he pursues various means of keeping his heart rate up while looking for the bad guys who did him in. It’s Speed on a person.
Since Crank is a film about rushing and intensity, it is filmed in such a style. At first it may seem a bit obvious to use undercranking, split screens, point of view shots and other camera tricks to visualize Chev’s internal state. Perhaps the Google map shot seems like the most desperate techno gimmick, or the techno music beats but consider this:
I more than anyone hate shakey camera shots in movies like The Bourne Supremacy, but they didn’t bother me here. Why? Because those pretentious movies say they’re using it to create reality. Well, reality isn’t shakey. This movie is not about reality. It’s about a constructed state of emotion. That’s why it works.
The point where you know Crank is going to be fun is when Chev drives through a shopping mall during the whole medical exposition phone call. That shows that they know the crazy premise needs a lot of setup, so they’re going to be as crazy as they can be to keep us entertained. From then on, Crank relishes in its outrageous stunts.
The action of Crank is not like The Transporter. This isn’t a martial arts movie. The thrills come from brutal violence. It’s outrageously graphic with chopped limbs and blood spraying, but like a John Woo movie, each brutal gag is milked for a good three jokes.
Jason Statham is a one man Die Hard. He plays Chev’s intensity with perfect deadpan and just kicks ass. Especially once his oblivious girlfriend (Amy Smart) enters the picture, he dispatches his pursuers as a matter of obligation, keeping her in the dark the whole time. His ultimate act of adrenaline with her is so ballsy I can’t believe they put this in a movie. It spans the range of abuse, manipulation and humiliation and just keeps on going.
By the time Chev is in this state, the filmmakers have taken the visual style to a satirical degree. Toying with text on the screen, they practically say, “See how we’re not taking our intense tricks seriously?”
The music that began as telegraphing the tone becomes sarcastic. By the time they use oldies like “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “Let’s Get It On,” they’re using the songs in a familiar setting but with the absolute opposite tone.