Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.


Crank opens with a quick-cut, low-res, '80s-videogame-inspired credits sequence. Why? No good reason, really. And viewers baffled by stuff happening for no particular reason should probably stay well away. Take the opening setpiece: Hit man Jason Statham wakes up and stumbles around his apartment until he finds a DVD labeled "FUCK YOU." Playing it, he's greeted by archenemy Jose Pablo Cantillo, who cackles as he explains how his henchman bopped Statham over the head with a baseball bat. Then the camera pans down to show Cantillo shooting the unconscious Statham full of a deadly substance. ("It's like Shakespeare or some shit," Cantillo boasts.) Why not just finish him off with the bat? There wouldn't be a movie that way, but is that reason enough?


Well, it would be if the movie made the absurdity worthwhile. And for a while, it does. Statham learns that the only way to fight the toxin's effects is to keep his adrenaline pumping, which gives him an excuse to start brawls, snort coke, have public sex with his girlfriend Amy Smart, and drive through shopping malls as he attempts to hunt down Cantillo and rendezvous with sleazy doctor Dwight Yoakam, who's clearly enjoying himself.

Any movie with this premise—basically D.O.A. meets Speed, but with a body instead of a bus—has to be gloriously stupid to work, and for a good stretch, writer-director Mark Neveldine seems to get this. So he puts Statham in a hospital gown on the back of a motorcycle, and films Cantillo getting a blowjob as he feeds his dog mounds of raw meat. (Now that's decadent.) There's nothing subtle about Crank, and Neveldine's cut-cut-cut style seems determined to beat Tony Scott at his own game.


It's a stupid thrill for a while, but the high wears off, and the anything-goes approach gets headache-inducing. Neveldine throws in some split-screen sequences in which the doubled images switch places, presumably just to keep objects moving on the screen. And once the spirit turns mean in a bloody final act, the headache just gets bigger. But the film at least deserves credit for never compromising its brain-dead wit, and for its final scene, which follows its gory cartoon logic to its inevitable end. Action fans looking for something different owe it to themselves to check out Crank, even if it makes them realize that different doesn't always mean better.

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