by Mel Valentin
Four years ago, "Crank," "D.O.A." for the videogame generation written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor ("Gamer"), mixed a hyperkinetic, hyperbolic visual style, ultra-violence, and a profane, amoral anti-hero/hitman, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham). Together, those elements made "Crank" a minor cult hit. With Chelios apparently dead, a sequel seemed highly improbable. A seemingly irreversible ending, however, didn’t stop Neveldine/Taylor from making a sequel so ludicrous, so implausible (actually impossible) that even Neveldine/Taylor’s detractors had to admit was balls-out insane.Chelios (Jason Statham) lies dead after a mile-high plunge from a helicopter. After a Triad literally shovels Chelios’ body from the asphalt, he regains consciousness in a makeshift operating room as two Asian doctors replace his nearly indestructible heart with an artificial one. The better to keep Chelios fresh before they harvest his other organs. When the doctors attempt to harvest another organ, he escapes, but he’s slowed down by the artificial heart and a battery pack that requires constant recharging, a semi-clever variation on the first film’s premise where a poisoned Chelios has to keep himself amped up on adrenaline or die from the effects of the toxin.
"Repugnant, repulsive, vulgar, crude, offensive..."
Johnny Vang (Art Hsu), the low-level gangster and courier has transporting Chelios’ heart to Vang’s Triad boss, Poon Dong (the late David Carradine), becomes Chelios’ primary target. To complicate matters, a Latino crime lord, El Huron (Clifton Collins Jr.), wants Chelios dead. Chelios also crosses paths with his ex-girlfriend, Eve Lydon (Amy Smart), working in a strip club, her new boyfriend-manager, Randy (Corey Haim), Venus (Efren Ramirez), whose brother didn’t survive Crank, Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam), Chelios’ friend and heart surgeon, Don Kim (Keone Young), an Asian gangster, and Ria (Bai Ling), a shrill Asian prostitute/temporary sidekick.
In transforming Chelios from an almost unkillable hitman into an indestructible videogame-inspired character (Neveldine/Taylor tip their hand by including videogame titles and cutaways), they’re challenging their audience to go with the hyper-kinetic, ultra-violent flow or find your entertainment elsewhere. Most moviegoers can (and should) take the “entertainment elsewhere” option, not just for the gratuitous violence and nudity (controversial to some, boring to others) or the frenzied, frenetic, incoherent action, but for the everything-is-permitted nihilism.
Either Neveldine/Taylor are having one big, money-making joke at our (your) audience’s expense or they’re willfully nihilistic filmmakers eager to indulge in consequence-free ultra-violence, sexual, gender, and ethnic stereotypes, and superficial storytelling shorn of meaningful commentary. There’s no racial or ethnic stereotype (e.g., Latino gangbangers, Asian gangsters, Asian whores) that they won’t indulge in. In Neveldine/Taylor’s estimation, any reaction to their work, positive or negative, is preferable to no reaction at all (in other words, they’re narcissists). There’s no moral rule Neveldine/Taylor won’t bend or break, no ethnic group they won’t caricature, and no female character they won’t depict as a sexual object or the object of ridicule (other alternatives don’t exist in the Neveldine/Taylor universe).Of course, that’s exactly what Neveldine/Taylor hope their target audience (the apparently free-spending 18-25, videogame-obsessed male demo advertisers see as the end-all, be-all) will get out of "Crank: High Voltage." They know that "Grand Theft Auto"-obsessed gamers will revel in the consequence-free excesses Neveldine/Taylor repeatedly splatter on screen. If you’re not part of that target demographic or even if you are, but see a distinct difference between playing videogames and watching a movie (with the varying levels of immersivity and identification they invite), then you’ll be repulsed by "Crank: High Voltage."
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18075&reviewer=402
originally posted: 04/04/10 00:00:00