Friday, April 17, 2009

REVIEW: Crank: High Voltage...

As many of you faithful readers may know, I'm not a fan of over the top, brainless action films. However, I do make a certain exception, when it comes to Crank and it's subsequent sequel, Crank: High Voltage.

That cause for exception, is due to the film makers behind the piece of adrenaline pumping cinema. Like other directors with a distinct style, they make each piece inherently interesting to watch, and for a style of film that calls for you to turn the thing your head called a brain to the off position, it can make the experience a whole lot more fun and interesting.

The film makers I speak of are the duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Their first full length feature, Crank, was a stunning surprise for me. It's shocking sense of kinetic energy in both the action of the film and in the direction/film making, made it a perfect action film for my taste. Then, after writing the cult horror flick, Pathology, they decided to head back to the story of Chev Chelios, with Crank: High Voltage, which may actually do something that most sequels can't, be better than the first.

I'm getting into the plot here, so if you haven't seen Crank, it's fine, but spoilers may be ahead. I'm not going into that films story, but I do have to touch on a couple of things. You have been warned.

Crank: High Voltage isn't a heavy story. It picks up where Crank left off (the exact second that film left off, actually), and has us following our hero, Chev Chelios, once again. This time, Chelios faces a Chinese mobster who has stolen his nearly indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working. From there, it's a balls-out actioner full of blood, guns, bullets, and octane, that pulls no punches. It is an action film and doesn't apologize for a single second.

As I stated above, the main reason, besides the first film, that I was interested in Crank: HV, was the people behind it. I do not know of a single director or set of directors with a more interesting or fun style. They allow the action on screen to be complemented with their very kinetic and close quarters film making. They put the cameras right in the middle of the action, yet don't keep the viewers disoriented in ways that films like The Bourne series do. It may be helped by the cameras that they are using too.

Crank: High Voltage is the first narrative film to be released in a wide release, shot entirely on consumer grade cameras. What exactly does that mean? Well, instead of taking a 35mm camera and shooting their action film with those clunky machines, the directors, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, have decided to strap on their 3000$ Canon XH-A1 HD pro-sumer cameras that simply use a mini-dv tape to record. It's not nearly as fluid or liquid as film, but it doesn't need to be. It's hyper real look fits the hyper reality of what is going on, perfectly.

Another thing that this film has going for it is it's lead, Jason Statham. When casting for the role, Statham called up Neveldine/Taylor and said that he didn't think he could pull of the comedy in the role. He could not have been more wrong. He is the epitome of Chev Chelios. Badass, driven, and featuring perfect comedic timing, Staham is pitch perfect for this role, and is a real pleasure to watch.

The supporting cast, while not great, fit. Amy Smart plays the oblivious blond girlfriend role, to a t, and country musician Dwight Yokum reprises his role as Chev's trusted doctor. That said, the true scene stealer, for the whole 3 seconds he's on screen is Bill himself, David Carradine, as the main baddie, Poon Dong. Yes, Poon Dong.

I would have something to say that is bad about the film, but honestly, it wouldn't be a real critique. The thing about films of this like is that they don't take themselves seriously. If CHV was to give this story, but in a serious way, that a film like Wanted did, then I could get into a few things. The script is a bit weak, some of the acting in this is awful, particularly Efren Ramirez as Venus, and some of the set pieces don't completely work. However, this film isn't trying to be anything else other than a pure action film. It is a kick ass film that doesn't have any underlying message except that it will kick you in the throat, punch you in the jaw, and then just laugh as it does it again for 85 minutes. And I loved every single second of it.

The last thing I want to touch on, is a warning more than anything. This film is not for everyone, yet, I think everyone could enjoy it. What I mean by that is that if you are a fan of films like Wanted or have seen Crank and enjoyed it, then you won't find anything to dislike in this film. However, if you dislike films that ooze machismo and flash a giant middle finger to the viewers, than stay clear.


The film does have a few flaws, but most can be forgiven as I haven't had this much fun watching a film in a long, long time. Here's to Crank 3!

Go see something good!

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