Should I Watch..? Crank: High Voltage
What's the big deal?
Crank: High Voltage is an all-action black comedy film released in 2009 and is a sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit Crank (1). Once again written and directed by the pair behind the original Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the film sees Jason Statham return as Chev Chelios who returns from the dead to retrieve his stolen heart. Like the first film, this is a virtually non-stop series of over-the-top action sequences and far-fetched premises. Its notable for its relatively low budget compared to action films of this type (a modest $20 million) but the film made slightly less than its predecessor and reviews were fairly mixed when the film was released. The film features a number of cameos from the eclectic likes of porn stars Ron Jeremy and Jenna Haze, former child star Corey Haim, country music star Dwight Yoakam (reprising his role in the first film) and one-time Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell.
What's it about?
After the climax of the previous film, hitman Chev Chelios slams into an intersection after falling from a helicopter. However, before he can pick himself up and dust himself down, he is literally scooped up by Chinese gangsters who move him to an unknown location. Later, Chev wakes up to find surgeons removing his apparently super-powered heart and replacing it with an artificial one. Waking up again after the procedure, Chev escapes and discovers a battery pack connected to his chest.
Informed by his buddy Doctor Miles that the battery providing his new heart with power must be continually recharged, Chev once again indulges in some ultra violence in order to find out where his old heart is. On the way, he bumps into the twin brother of his late buddy Kaylo as well as his stripper girlfriend Eve who thought Chev had left her. But as Chev continues his one-man war against LA's criminal underbelly, the toll it takes on his new heart cannot be ignored...
Clifton Collins Jr
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Release Date (UK)
16th April, 2009
Action, Crime, Thriller
What's to like?
It's a fair assumption to assume that only people who enjoyed the first film will show any real interest in Crank: High Voltage which is nuttier than a schizophrenic squirrel. Part of the appeal of the first film was its incredible display of action and its near-knuckle cinematography which brought viewers uncomfortably close to the mayhem. So it goes without saying that this jumped-up sequel carries on in much the same vein, propelling you into a near non-stop rollercoaster ride through seedy nightclubs, strip-clubs, shopping malls and race meetings. The violence is brutal, the women are nearly all removed of some clothing at some point and the same grubby charm of the first film is present and correct.
With Statham once again returning as the possibly immortal Chev Chelios, action fans know they are in safe hands. The constant stream of cameo parts also keep things ticking along nicely as the story, once again, serves only as the faintest reason for such wanton destruction. The film also has its tongue firmly in its cheek, in the same way that Sharknado 2: The Second One (2) openly mocks the alleged seriousness of its predecessor. The film, towards the end, takes the decision to abandon all pretence of being in reality and turns the lunacy up to eleven. Fine, if you like that sort of thing but personally, I'd rather be able to mock a film by myself without it telling me to do it.
- Ron Jeremy was not scheduled to appear among the striking porn stars but showed up anyway, thinking the directors simply forgot to call him. He also improvised all his dialogue.
- Although she plays his mother in the film, Geri Halliwell is actually five years younger than Jason Statham.
- The artificial heart shown in the movie is an actual artificial heart - the AbioCor. However, it does not come with an external battery pack and can last up to four hours without needing a recharge.
What's not to like?
As it turns out, this self-referential sense of humour indicates much deeper problems for this film than one might have supposed. Even the first film, mental as it was, still gave some thought to the madness - Chev had to go off the rails because he needed the adrenaline to keep himself alive. But what benefit does Chev receive from occasionally electrocuting himself, besides keeping his artificial heart working as normally? Or does it turn his plastic pump into a V8 engine or something - truthfully, I don't care. Crank: High Voltage doesn't show much respect to its audience so it concentrates on providing a gaudy exercise in exploitative film-making and B-movie awfulness.
Now like the aforementioned Sharknado series, I realise that such criticism misses the point. Films like this aren't meant to be taken seriously - certainly, it doesn't take itself seriously as Chev's stubbly grimace gets ever more maniacal as he guns down more bad guys. But I appreciate a B-movie that takes the time and effort to be a well-made B-movie like Predator (3), for example. But the gaps in budget are all too visible and neither director brings any new ideas to the film, even going so far as to replicate the ridiculous sex-scene from the first film (and poor Amy Smart deserves so much better than running around in a sports jacket and nothing else). The whole thing feels underwritten and poorly thought-out, as if another bloody shoot-out might compensate for the lack of a compelling story or one-dimensional characters. I've played video games with more depth.
Should I watch it?
Crank: High Voltage delivers on its lowest-common-denominator promise of gory violence, hot chicks and square-jawed hero at the centre of it. Fans of the first film will probably lap it up but I'm not one of them. This silly sequel lacks the surprise of the first film as well as any new ideas besides the overall gimmick. Imagine if Die Hard (4) was stripped of everything that made it more than a classy action film - the tension, the charismatic characters, the memorable setting - and instead played up the premise for laughs. This could have been so much more but Neveldine & Taylor sat on their laurels instead...
Great For: mindless action fans, streaming on a lad's night in (just don't pay for it, OK?), B-movie lovers
Not So Great For: critics, Amy Smart's Hollywood career, paranoid parents wondering what their teenage boys are watching in their rooms
What else should I watch?
There are some films that deliver plenty of wall-to-wall action without completely scrimping on story-line or budget. Take The Raid (5) or its equally-energetic sequel - both offer much in the form of truly amazing and brutal martial arts with amazing choreography, all of it is much more interesting and exciting than Statham's one-man crusade against LA's criminal fraternity. While the simple premise of a police SWAT team being ambushed in a ganglord's slum isn't that original, the film at least offers a couple of interesting sub-plots (brothers on either side, a corrupt officer, a very memorable baddie called Mad Dog) that at least make the film worth checking out. The same can be said for Desperado (6), Robert Rodriguez's proper low-budget shooter which introduced Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek to the world.
Other action-packed B-movies include the likes of Shoot 'Em Up (7) which sees Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti go at each other with a gun in each hand, Drive Angry (8) which has Nicholas Cage escaping from Hell itself (but of course!) to wreak vengeance on a dangerous cult leader while even the most respected action series of all produced its own B-movie entry with the appalling A Good Day To Die Hard (9). Maybe its the critic in me that disapproves of these mindless and repetitive throwaway flicks - none of them particularly sticks in the mind. If I'm in the mood for senseless violence in a film then I'd rather stick with a classy product like Terminator 2: Judgment Day (10) or the endlessly imitated The Matrix (11). I need more than bullets and boobs in a film and I suspect most people are the same.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox