The James Clayton Column: other films that need the Crank treatment

James wonders if some other classic movies could benefit from a Crank 2-style dose of adrenaline...

Did you spill Jason Statham's pint?

Even though box office success makes these things inevitable, I still can’t quite believe that they’ve actually made a sequel to the 2006 hit Crank. Can anyone really handle another orgy of all-out action, breathless destruction and hyperactive violence? After watching – nay, being assaulted by – Crank, I had to retire to a quiet shady place to calm down. I’m surprised that original cinema showings weren’t accompanied by the sort of warning signs you see in queues for rollercoasters: “Pregnant women, those with heart conditions, epilepsy or who are of a sensitive disposition are not advised to ride unaccompanied.”

The first film saw hitman Chev Chelios – played by go-to action geezer of the new millennium, Jason Statham – poisoned by Triads whose Beijing Cocktail concoction promises to kill him if his adrenaline drops too low. Chelios consequently hits the streets of LA to get his pulse racing and proceeds to pound a few gangsters, pick up some drugs and energy drinks and, with the help of his clueless girlfriend, treat the tourists of Chinatown to an erotic public display.

Having apparently miraculously survived the onslaught of the first flick, Chelios now returns for more mad-rushing and high-octane activity in Crank: High Voltage. This time, the assassin has to keep his adrenaline pumping not because he’s been injected with Beijing Cocktail (or, indeed, the infamous Bangkok Dangerous toxin which turns victims into Nicolas Cage) but because he’s got an artificial heart that’s running low on juice. To keep his ticker ticking, Statham’s character needs to maintain the tempo, and thus we have a convenient excuse for 90 minutes of non-stop, computer game style chaos. Who needs poison when you’ve got high voltage electric power?

Perhaps the title for the movie should’ve been Crank 2: Pimp My Pacemaker. I was excited about the artificial heart part until I fully realised that Chelios’s new chest organ is flawed. The fact that he needs to jump-start his heart is the reason he’s running around Los Angeles again doing all sorts of ridiculous stuff just to stay alive – it isn’t a superpowered pacemaker. For a minute, I imagined scores of pensioners emerging from hospital having been fitted with incredible cardiovascular devices that deliver the speed, strength and agility that abandons the average human body at the age of 26.

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The truth is, though, that Chelios’s chestpiece will not do heart disease sufferers much good, unless they want to follow Tony Stark’s lead and construct a superhero suit around their artificial vital organ (Iron Man becomes Iron Gran). Possessing this electro-charged heart, if the old fogies want to fritter away their pensions before grandchildren snatch it from their barely-dead fingers, they’re going to have to get moving. When you envision geriatrics plugging their private parts into the plug socket to get their crucial shock-a-day, an NHS standard pacemaker seems a lot more sensible.

Looking to breathe some life into all things inert, it’s probably best to back-peddle to the original Crank and the aforementioned Beijing Cocktail. It may roll like a ludicrous, particularly-frenetic music video, but you can’t bear a grudge against the movie. It’s undoubtedly a blast and considering some less-entertaining films that crawl over the viewer until they capitulate and surrender under boredom, I can’t help but think that the sinister synthetic should be passed around the movie industry.

For example, let’s inject the Beijing Cocktail into some of Ingmar Bergman’s most morose, moribund features. I don’t want to dismiss arthouse, existentialist-torment cinema out-of-hand at all, but most Bergman films leave me in a state of bleak melancholy. Not every film should make the viewer feel miserable, so perhaps some of the Swede’s most dire and depressing flicks should receive a shot to shock ‘em out of torpor. To save the many film students from prolonged pain, poison could be the cure.

I’ll have to leave designs on Bergman to one side – partly because he’s deceased (having presumably lost a game of chess against Death) and partly because I fear an attack from a legion of insulted cineastes. Instead, it may be more productive to give the poison to a few of the samey rom-coms that continue to do the rounds in cinemas. How many lame, drawn-out relationship flicks could’ve been wrapped up within ten minutes thanks to the addition of the Beijing Cocktail plot element? No more ‘will they/won’t they?’ stories that string spectators through yet more Matthew McConaughey smirking, Hugh Grant hedging and all the clichés that come along with this sort of material. If the leading man or woman was instructed at the outset: “No time for small talk or sexual awkwardness. Your adrenaline is falling and you are going to die if you don’t get frisky! Have sex, right now!” much time would be saved, and much drippy tedious filler omitted.

As I fantasise about a Hugh Grant berserker rampage, I’m drawn to thinking about other actors that could do with an injection of the Triads’ toxin. A Beijing Cocktail vaccination may be beneficial for famously slow film personalities and I can’t help but picture the scenario had Jimmy Stewart in all his drawling glory been the recipient of the poison. Mr Smith Goes To Washington is a classic film, but just imagine if good ol’ Jefferson Smith had been compelled Crank-style to keep his blood pressure high. There’s only one sequence in Frank Capra’s movie where Stewart’s virtuous everyman puts the capitol city right with a few well-aimed punches. With the addition of Beijing Cocktail and the fistfights and other essential violent acts that follow, the newbie senator would have that town sorted out in no time – and all in spectacular entertaining style.

All in all though, I like Jimmy Stewart and wouldn’t want to stick a syringe in him. Rubbing my hands maniacally like the best malevolent movie scientists do, I’d save the injection for his co-star in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – John Wayne. No time for that self-satisfied gurning and ‘Great Man of the West’ posturing now, pilgrim – you’ve got to get your adrenaline cranked up! Ah, the thought of Wayne frenetically beating himself about, forced to do lewd and crude things in public places for kicks just to stay alive – “That’ll be the day.”

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James’ previous column can be found here.