Crank: High Voltage

Crank: High Voltage (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
viewed: 04/30/09 at AMC Loews Metreon 16, SF, CA

As duly noted, while the San Francisco International Film Festival played across town and across the bay, I found myself going to view the other end of cinema’s spectrum (some might say “rectum”) in Crank 2: High Voltage (its trailer title).  For those who actually had seen or heard of the original Crank (2006), Crank 2, sort of sells itself.  I have to admit, I found an odd soft-spot for the hyperactive chaos of the first film and when I saw the trailer for this one, I knew that I had to go see it.

In Crank, Jason Statham is basically in D.O.A. (1950) on steroids, a man who has been infected with poison, who will eventually die if his heart rate drops below a certain level, so he has to do all kinds of crazy thrill-seeking in the midst of running around across LA in search of his killers.  Well, picking up where that left off…which I don’t really remember that well, we start Crank 2 will Statham falling from the sky, bouncing off a car and landing on the pavement.  He’s scooped up by some Asian gangsters, who cut out his heart and replace it with an artificial heart.  Apparantly, his whole body, including his rather large penis, are all being harvested because he is such a superman, able to fight off the Asian poison.  So, with his new artificial heart, he doesn’t just need excitement, he needs electricity.

Let’s just say that one of his first tricks is to attach a jumper cable to one of his nipples and the other to his tongue.

It’s that kind of insanity.

Just like the first one, the movie is hyperactively paced, edited, and compounded with a raging soundtrack.  Statham is running all over LA, this time, to find his heart.  Where I described Crank as “over the top of over the topness”, I’d have to say that co-writers and co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor do in fact manage to “crank” this up over the previous installment.  It’s high-absurdity, bad taste, tits and ass, gruesome outrageous violence, and barely a shot that lasts over a couple of seconds.  They also employ split-screen, odd subtitling, freeze-frames, all kinds of chaotic weirdness to keep the construct of the film in tune with its theme.  Gotta keep going insane — or we’ll perish!

What struck me far more this time than in the previous film is that while Los Angeles is populated with Asians, Latinos, gay biker African Americans (diversity, in other words), they are also horrible stereotypes, cartoonified for humor, but beyond that Statham (the Anglo superstud) uses all kinds of racial epithets (intended to piss off his enemies), but still,…there is a strong tang of racism in the movie, but one that is largely banal, used for humor, accepted and recited.  And while all the characters are cartoons first and foremost, and funny cartoons at times, there is something quite disturbing, if still funny, in Bai Ling’s subtitled broken English tirades.  Bai Ling was perfectly cast here, so much a comic construct herself.

And Dwight Yoakam is back as the frumpy, disgraced heart surgeon.  I still love Dwight.

My take on Crank 2 is simply this.  It’s pure trash cinema.  An action film, hardcore toward exploitation, hyperventilating, non-stop crash-boom-bang, edited and concocted with a height of either genius or garbage.  They don’t make a lot of movies like this.  No doubt we would all go crazy with migraines and nosebleeds.  But there is an aspect of brilliance.  It is so much what it is, so much more than anything else I can think of.  Take all those other Jason Statham action films and see if they can keep pace.  It’s fucking nuts.

It’s also annoying.  You’re relieved when it’s over, disquieted by the racism, eyes spinning from the pacing, and wanting a nice cold drink.  It is what it is.  And it is more so, indeed.

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