Waking up one morning, Chev Chelios rubs his head, the back of his neck and, coming around a little more, as much as he can of his body so to ease the pain. Everything hurts but it's his heartbeat that he notices most, being a deep thud that, as it slows, causes even more pain. Walking downstairs, he notices a DVD in front of his flat-screen display with FUCK YOU written on it in thick black marker pen. Putting it on, he sees himself asleep in bed and a small-time gangster called Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) beside him. Laughing at the camera, Verona takes out a syringe of what he calls Chinese shit and injects the substance into Chelios' neck, telling Chelios that he's a dead man. All that's required now is the actual dying part.
But Chelios doesn't intend on dying, at least not yet and certainly not while Verona is still alive. Leaving his apartment, Chelios gets in his car and drives. Drives fast. As fast as it takes. That Chinese shit turns out to be a poison that will kill Chelios if his heart slows down. Making a call to Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam), Chelios is told that he must keep moving and keep his heart beating, which isn't difficult for a man with drug dealers, killers, gangsters and murderers in his phone book. But Chelios is a man who wants out, a professional killer who stalled on his last job and who now wants nothing more than to leave the killing behind and start a new life with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart). That will have to wait, at least until Verona is dealt with but time is short and Chelios is already feeling the effects of that Chinese shit...
It's not the recent sitting through half-a-dozen British comedies that's convinced me of this but the likes of Ooh, You Are Awful, Til Death Do Us Part and Love Thy Neighbour haven't helped matters. It's just that most comedies aren't, well, very funny. They try but most of them come down to a few straight actors struggling with lines and situations that, were it not for the winks, nods and various other signs that gags are afoot, might be mistaken for a tragedy. I'd rather suffer a hernia than have the privilege, if that be the right word, of watching Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon in Stuck On You again, the pair of whom wouldn't have been any less funny if they were telling you of an incurably large tumour that was ravaging your lungs. The small screen is no better with The Vicar Of Dibley, Little Britain, The Catherine Tate Show and anything involving Russel Brand producing fewer laughs than being injected by the same Chinese shit that flows through the veins of Chev Chelios.
Crank, on the other hand, is one of the funniest films you'll see this year, an action film that aims makes absolutely no effort to find an ounce of sense in its plotting in favour of laughs, shootouts and some very bloody hands. A typical moment sees Chev Chelios cornering a hood in a restaurant, taking the action outside and ambushing him in an alleyway, chopping off his hand with a mat cleaver from the kitchen. As the gangster's attention goes elsewhere, Chelios picks up his now severed hand, unclasps its fingers from around the gun it's holding and uses the weapon to kill the gangster. There's no one-liner and no actual gag as such, more the laughs that come with some shocking violence, how utterly bizarre the situation is and the rush that comes with bloodshed. And that's not even the best moment in the film, with it being topped by Chelios finding a novel use for a sewing machine, his being shocked by a defibrillator, his topping up his adrenaline via some very public sex with Eve and his overdosing on epinephrine, which ends with him running through Los Angeles in a hospital gown, his arse hanging out, an erection bobbing before him and his being described on the television news as extremely dangerous.
In all of this, British action star - how unlikely would those words once have sounded - Jason Statham builds on The Transporter with a film that's been designed to flatter him. As an actor, he's no great shakes but his choice of material is canny and in Crank, he's gotten a part that allows him to be funny, sometimes very funny, without ever looking as though he's trying. Unfortunately, Crank lets him down somewhat as it attempts to resolve his search for an antidote, his efforts at getting out of professional killings and his ensuring that Eve remains untouched by Verona and his men. But just when it seems as though it will resolve itself in a shootout on a rooftop, it takes to the skies and ends with a moment that sums up the entire film, with much blood, laughs and an action shot that's as graceful as it is stunning. Best of all, at eighty-four minutes, it wastes not one moment of its running time, positively sprinting to its end. Short, funny and bloodier than many a horror, Crank is a great little film and one that will keep Jason Statham creeping up the action rankings for a year or two to come. Once again, it's becoming increasingly hard to dislike the man.
Looking very little different to The Shield or Tony Scott's Man On Fire, with which it shares its theme of revenge, Crank goes from being a sometimes nondescript film to one that revels in its sense of style. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor vary the action throughout the film, lightening it at times whilst, at others, editing it in such a way as to suggest that, if never real, is still desperate. The DVD transfer is good, looking slightly above par and showing a sharpness that is a touch better than the average studio release. However, what little CG there is in the film then stands out more than it would otherwise, particularly when Jason Statham walks up his car as it's parked on an escalator in a shopping mall. And no, not one word of that is a misprint or an exaggeration.
It is, however, clear that directors Neveldine and Taylor's love is in the visuals of the film, with their use of audio being comparatively ordinary. At that, it's fair to say that the heavy use of anonymous hard rock - think a K-Tel Rage Against The Machine - does the film no favours. The actual audio track is fine with obvious use of the rear channels and subwoofer but it isn't any more than what one might expect of it. Finally, there are English subtitles and in spite of the barrage of gangster schtick and, thanks to Statham, cockney slang, they do look accurate.
The only extra is a Trailer (1m51s).
Chelios' search for an antidote to the Chinese shit is as futile as finding meaning behind Crank. It is an eighty-four minute exercise in kineticism, being utter nonsense that tops each excess with another, breathlessly leaping between set pieces, being almost everything that one could ever want from a Tony Scott film but without any concerns about there being reason behind the action. On the contrary, it reads like a videogame, occasionally looks like one and, if you sit through the end credits, actually is one. That might sound dreadful but as one who actually enjoyed Max Payne for its complete disregard for reading and sometimes looking like a pulp comic book, it's refreshing to have an action-thriller that believes comedy can be a lot more fun than drama.