Crank 2 aka Crank: High Voltage (2009)
Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Efren Ramirez, Julanne Chidi Hill, Reno Wilson, Keone Young, Art Hsu, Joseph Julian Soria, Bai Ling, Clifton Collins Jr., David Carradine, Corey Haim, John de Lancie
(out of 4)
Crank: High Voltage (referred to from here on as Crank 2) is a non-stop barrage of filth: a parade of profanity, tits, sex, and violence. I kinda liked it. Jason Statham plays Chev Chelios, who was killed in the first Crank movie after he dropped from a helicopter, bounced off a car, and hit the street. It turns out that this guy isn’t that easy to kill, as we watch Hong Kong triad goons drive up, scoop him off the street with a shovel, and take him to Gangster Medical Center, keeping him on life support while his organs are being harvested. First to go is his heart, which was so strong that it was able to survive Chinese poisons in the last film. Therefore, it has been claimed by the 100-year old Triad leader Poon Dong (David Carradine), and in its place goes an artificial heart run on a battery (the mechanics of which is explained in the movie using a classroom slide presentation). As a TV anchorman (played by Star Trek TNG‘s John de Lancie) comments, it’s all quite implausible. Waking up and escaping before the bad guys can remove his penis, Chev goes on a mission to get his heart back. As you may expect, the quest to “find his heart” will involve lots of bloody violence and offending the sensibilities of just about everybody on the planet.
Jason Statham gets a jump
Crank 2 has a similar plot to the first film, which you may recall was an amped up D.O.A. for kids addicted to Grand Theft Auto and Skittles candy. The catch this time around is that Chev has to keep his artificial heart recharged; this will involve methods like tasering himself, grabbing onto high voltage transformers, or even rubbing up against people (one of them is an old lady with a walker) so he can generate static electricity. Crank 2 plays out like it was written, directed, and filmed by people constantly on amphetamines. It features sequences such as a man being anally penetrated with a shotgun, a stripper being shot in such a way that all the silicone pours out of her breasts, and a crazed hooker (but still with a heart of gold, as far as that goes) played by Bai Ling who likes to compare Statham’s character and herself to Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston (even though Chev has no intention of being her bodyguard). When we first meet her, she destroys a man’s groin with a bicycle while uttering obscenities in a broken English that the creators were kind enough to subtitle for us. There’s the return of Chev’s girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), who is now stripping but can still kick ass if she needs to. There’s a new take on the Chinatown scene from the last film; this time, Chev and Eve have sex on a horse track to the delight of onlookers. He rides her like a cowboy and somebody even throws a hat out to him. A horse gallops over them, and Eve is astonished at the size of the horse’s genitals. We also get to watch a man slicing off his own nipples and part of a dude’s elbow being cut off with a machete, two rather gory sequences that scream out Takashi Miike (I was thinking of Dead or Alive and Ichi the Killer). The movie itself is shot as you would expect – quick cuts, zooms, weird camera angles – perfect for ADD types and video game players (the beginning of the movie starts out with video game graphics). It’s like a big swig of Mountain Dew followed by a speedball.
Political correctness does not exist in this dojo.
Normally, I hate movies like this. I usually can’t stand shaky cam and MTV quick-cuts. But Crank 2 transcends it somehow; it goes so deep into this insane territory that it becomes a kind of self-parody. It breeches every moral barrier you can think of – all the men are assholes and ethnic stereotypes, all the women exist merely to be objectified, violence is treated many times as the punchline of a joke. The movie takes the religious conservatives’ idea of a morally bankrupt nation to its foregone conclusion. In the world of Crank 2, the streets of Los Angeles are ruled by gangsters, thugs, and degenerates, and there is no purpose to anything, only chaos (this is the closest thing to a film version of Grand Theft Auto that I have seen). In this movie’s universe, Armageddon has already happened, and all of the inhabitants have been stripped down to their base elements – the sexual and violent impulse; it’s a world run by lizards on an engine of primal stimulation. It seems to me that, like Mike Judge and his creations Beavis and Butt-Head, directors Neveldine and Taylor do not really condone the behavior of anybody in this film. They seem too smart for that. I mean, the sex and violence are linked together so blatantly – take a scene in a police car where Eve is in the back seat, wearing handcuffs, sitting next to a rather horny stripper girl she works with. Chev is trying to keep himself juiced using the only thing he has available – a cop’s taser. For some reason, he tasers himself in places like his tongue and testicles, and while he is doing that we get quick camera cuts to the horny stripper girl caressing Eve’s legs. Cue: groin zap, tits, bare skin, zap again. Another scene has Chev coming across two assholes, one of whom is using a dog zapper (“I wanted a cat anyway”). Chev grabs the collar off the dog and puts it around his own neck, telling the guy to press the button. As he does so, Chev barks and jumps around like a confused canine. Friends, these are not subtle metaphors.
The ending of Crank 2 surprised me with its surrealism. It involves a disembodied head kept alive with tubes in a glass container, and our anti-hero finding “religion” in the holy spirit of high voltage. Walking towards the camera, on fire and looking like some kind of flaming angel of death, Statham gives me (you, us, critics, the world?) the finger while smiling a devilish grin. Crank 2 is unleashed in the same manner as one of the “good guys” in the film suffering from “Full Body Tourettes”, but it’s this fiery image of Statham that summarizes the film: fuck you if you can’t take a joke.
– Bill Gordon
Buy Crank 2: High Voltage on DVD (1 disc version)
Buy Crank 2: High Voltage on DVD (2 disc version)
Buy Crank 2: High Voltage on Blu-ray
Superfluous image of Bai Ling.