Chev Chelios is a bad, bad man. Which is probably why someone just smashed him over the head with a baseball bat and then injected him with the “Beijing Cocktail”, a synthetic drug that will surely kill him in a few minutes — unless, of course, he keeps his adrenaline pumping, in which case he will continue to survive…for a bit. Clocking in at a vicious 78 minutes sans closing credits, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s “Crank” is one of those few movies that can justly claim that its commercials do the actual film justice. In fact, this isn’t really a movie; it’s a 30-second trailer for a movie expanded into 78 minutes.
Jason Statham (“The Transporter” films) stars as Chev, a Los Angeles-based hitman (who just happens to be a Brit) who wakes up to a freshly recorded DVD authored by lowlife thug Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) informing Chev of his current predicament. Off Chev goes in search of Verona, finding little help in crime boss Carlito (Carlos Sanz), who seems to indicate that he approves of Verona’s targeting of Chev. Luckily for our embattled hero, he does get serviceable assistance from an underworld doctor (Dwight Yoakam) and his blond girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), who thinks Chev is a videogame programmer, which in itself is a bit of a stretch. Has she seen Chev? Videogame programmers don’t look like that, doll.
“Crank” begs not to be taken seriously from the very first frame, when a rather odd variation of Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head” plays over the opening credits, which itself looks a bit like the screen of an ’80s arcade game. From there, things progresses into stranger but incredibly fun territories. Written and directed by first-timers Neveldine and Taylor, “Crank” is the very definition of action packed and fast-paced. Like its main character, the film almost never stops for a breather, and is constantly moving at speeds too great for the average movie.
There is something to be said about the sheer lunacy of “Crank”, including a brilliant scene where Chev is on the phone with the L.A.-bound Yoakam, all the while he’s being chased by a legion of cops. Moments later, and without fanfare, Chev swerves his vehicle into a mall, crashes into the mall, drives wildly through it, and then gets upended when he hits the escalators, forcing him to continue fleeing on foot — all the while still talking to Yoakam on the phone. “Crank” is filled with such unpredictable and completely ludicrous moments, and when Eve enters the picture, you just know crazy sex isn’t far behind.
There is not a whole lot of story to “Crank”, but that isn’t really an issue. A movie like this is set in motion by a simple premise that is played to the very end. That is very much the case here, as the script by Neveldine and Taylor is full of tongue-in-cheek jokes, including zoom-in CGI shots of different locations in L.A., complete with the Google Earth logo plastered in the lower right hand corner. Needless to say, camera tricks abound in “Crank”, with a number of interesting editing effects. The film is jam packed with goodies that a second viewing would probably not be such a bad idea. This is one of those times when the background is just as fun as the action in the foreground.
As our run-amok lead, Jason Statham is in fine form. I doubt if the script was written specifically for Statham, as he is possibly too physical for the role that the effect of his wild crusade through L.A. is not nearly as effective as it could have been if, for instance, Chev Chelios was played by an actor of less physicality. The movie uses Statham’s obvious Englishness to provide a number of good jokes, and Statham certainly gives it his all, including a long sequence where he flees the cops while wearing nothing but a flapping hospital gown, socks, and sneakers. Where does he keep his constantly ringing cellphone? In one of his socks, of course, which also just happens to be black. “Crank” is filled with such goofy visual gags, and bravo to Statham for letting it all literally hang out.
“Crank” is 78 minutes of great adulterated and politically incorrect fun. At one point, Chev carjacks a taxi by throwing its Middle Eastern driver to the ground and shouting, “Al Qaeda!”, which results in a couple of old ladies beating up the poor driver. The film has a fun supporting cast, including Dwight Yoakam as the underworld doctor. Yoakam is always fun to watch, but he really seems to be having a ball here. Likewise with Amy Smart, whose somewhat ditzy character is nevertheless cute enough that we might just believe Chev would willingly give it all up for her. And indeed, some of the film’s best moments are those little quick glimpses of Chev’s affections for her. The guy may be a psychotic killer, but he really does seem to love the ditzy blonde.
Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor (director) / Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Statham …. Chev Chelios
Amy Smart …. Eve
Jose Pablo Cantillo …. Verona
Efren Ramirez …. Kaylo
Dwight Yoakam …. Doc Miles
Carlos Sanz …. Carlito
Reno Wilson …. Orlando