Crank: High Voltage

Crank: High Voltage


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

He was dead. But he got better.

In most film series, a line like this wouldn't wash, reeking as it does of overt audience exploitation. In the case of Crank, however, it builds on a premise already so silly as to make it quite acceptable. Sometime assassin Chev Chelios, who ran around frantically in the first film trying to keep his heart rate up so the poison in his system wouldn't get him, has been restored to life by a Triad enemy who wants to watch him die (and who clearly hasn't thought things through); however, his heart has been stolen, replaced with an artificial one. His real heart is on its way to a dangerous dying crime lord. Chev has to get it back before the artificial one packs in, and in order to keep that going in the meantime, he needs to keep giving himself electric shocks.

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It's a great premise for an action film - ludicrous, yes, but full of potential for frantic chases, desperate showdowns and electrifying action. So why has Crank: High Voltage turned out to be so dull?

The first thing you need for a successful action movie is a star. Jason Statham can act - indeed, he handles scenes in which Chev is distressed by his condition pretty well - but he's short on real star quality, a poor man's Vin Diesel. In ten years' time he'll be competing for Sunday night slots on Channel 5, up against Steven Seagal. It seems appropriate that here he is performing alongside the likes of Dwight Yoakam, David Carradine and Corey Haim. Okay, so some of those trashy B-grade action films can still be fun, but the problem here is that Crank: High Voltage doesn't get the joke. It tries to compensate by spoofing other things, with intermittent success, but it has no real energy of its own.

Following on from the first film, Crank: High Voltage relies on the gimmick of frantic pacing, with fast cutting, multi-camera editing and frequent two-second reaction shots. This isn't filmed for the MTV generation, but for their ADHD-afflicted offspring. It works for a while, but most audience members start to switch off, and it becomes apparent that it hasn't really got anything to say.

So it takes the route of many such mistakes and tries to shock instead. Casual torture, rape and racist language are used (in vain) to try and give Chev some character. The mistreatment of women goes beyond spoof into something which, given the apparent trafficked status of many of them, is really just appalling. There's a dig at disability (in one of the few genuinely sympathetic - albeit cliched - characters), and we get to see heroine Eve (Amy Smart, back from the first film) show her disgust at a lesbian character who seems too drugged to know what she's doing. Does this make you angry? Does it make you feel clever because you're not being fooled by those PC-types? Actually, it just bored the hell out of me.

Where it could have been childish in a fun way, Crank: High Voltage is more like a toddler shouting naughty words in a supermarket to get attention. You might smile kindly at it to begin with, but you'll soon run out of patience. It's pitiful to think that this is only the second film in the franchise. Its batteries are already running down.

Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2009
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Crank: High Voltage packshot
Dead assassin Chev Chelios is resurrected by an enemy who then steals his heart - to keep his artificial one going, he has to seek out electric shocks.
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Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Writer: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Clifton Collins Jr., Ling Bai, David Carradine, Corey Haim, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam, Glenn Howerton

Year: 2009

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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