There’s an argument to suggest that Jason Statham is one of Britain’s most successful acting exports at the moment; and despite his procession of appalling testosterone-fuelled brain bleeders, it’s hard not to enjoy his hard man performances, which always seem to have a knowing tongue lodged firmly in cheek.
It’s for that reason I quite enjoyed Crank, a guilty pleasure of a movie that delighted in attempting to offend the senses and psyche at every turn. So with Crank 2: High Voltage being released on DVD (and let’s be honest, the medium was invented for no other reason than to watch the Stath at work) I had hoped to recommend it as a further guilty pleasure, a movie that by knowingly enjoying could be elevated to kitsch status like 80s music or the return of Black Forest gateaux as a gastronomic treat. Sadly, however, I can’t smugly state that ‘if you liked Crank you’ll love Crank 2: High Voltage‘ and instead can only recommend the movie as a slightly less painful alternative to removing your frontal lobe armed only with a rusty melon baller.
The end of the first film in which Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) seemingly died, seemed to rule out any possibility of a logical sequel. But nothing is logical in Chelios’ world and so, as we enter Crank 2 via an 8-bit animation retelling Chevios’ apparent demise (a sign if ever there was one that the next two hours are not to be taken seriously), we quickly learn that Chelios hasn’t died and instead has been kept alive by bad types who’ve harvested his heart and replaced it with an artificial thingamajig. And so the odious quest to recover his ‘strawberry tart’ begins.
The basic premise in Crank was that Statham’s character had to be regularly pumped full of adrenalin to survive, a plot about as subtle as rabies, but which nonetheless delivered some giggles. However, in Crank 2: High Voltage (and the educated amongst you web-trawling minions might see this one coming) Chelios must keep his electrical heart ‘charged’ in order to survive. Essentially it’s the same plot, only slightly worse and the resultant action pretty much sees a procession of mockney narrated fight scenes from a man attempting to find amusing alternatives to licking a 12 volt battery.
But the problem with this second outing is not the repetition of the first film’s narrative, but more the absence of a passable narrative altogether. And that’s where Crank 2 falls down; the filmmakers are so obsessed with shock, awe and outdoing themselves at every turn, that they forget they’re making a film. It’s like watching someone playing a computer game and the experience passes you by similarly, with such little interest that you barely notice when the movie finishes without really ending.
It’s reminiscent of the nauseating Schwarzenegger outing in Last Action Hero which seemed more obsessed with its own in-jokes and self-parodying action scenes than plot, characterisation or any of the basic building blocks of movie production. If there’s a subtle subtext in Crank 2 then it’s obviously beyond me and instead it’s like the movie has been written by giggling schoolboys obsessed with their own playground banter that delights in profanity, gore and stereotypical representation of everything from race to sexuality. All of which I’m sure is deliberately over the top and appeals to the audience at which the film is firmly pointed. But whilst my thresholds aren’t high, I personally found the objectification and degradation of women in the movie was just unpalatable.
Eve (Amy Smart), who played her role as object of desire in the first outing, returns once more as Chelios’ ever-willing love interest but, outside of her public sex acts, the women in Crank’s world are a mixture of strippers and prostitutes so demeaningly portrayed that I found some sections of the movie simply repellent and completely unnecessary.
Visually like it’s predecessor, Crank 2 is packed full of strobes, rapid editing and camera quirks as the directors vie desperately for your attention; but becomes almost unwatchable in two dream-like sequences which are truly awful. One is an astronomically unfunny take on classic Godzilla action, complete with cardboard houses and dodgy effects, which is genuinely as implausible and dull as it’s described. The second mimics daytime chat shows with a young Chelios explored by the Springer-like host whilst his mum (who’s unbelievably played by Geri Halliwell in a role that makes Spiceworld seem Oscar-worthy) watches on.
As both writers and directors Neveldine and Taylor are credited as one single entity in the credits and whilst I’m sure this film will do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the Crank Cult, I remain truly terrified at the outcome should either decide to put pen to paper all by themselves. But perhaps that’s where the film may have been saved, and with only one giggling moron in the writer’s room we may have been treated to a more palatable stint of entertainment.
Extras If you really wanted to see how the film was made or want to try and unravel the creative process of the writers, then there’s commentary and making of documentaries here for you. But for those of you with the brain cells to rub together, then I’d pray for a power cut after the end credits roll.
Crank: High Voltage is out now.