Sunday, July 27, 2008


The Action Mutant…
wants him some crank (and he’s not talking about the movie, either!).


review by Joe Burrows

The previous opening weekend success of the new Batman feature The Dark Knight (you know, $155 million opening weekend…largest opening weekend in history) shows that market saturation happens to work every so often. The weekend also showed that there is a science to the money making side of cinema that benefits everyone. Think about it…put The Dark Knight in 4,400 theaters because you know they’ll show up. Your girlfriend doesn’t want to sit through 2 ½ hours of it, so she goes to see Mamma Mia! (which garnered the biggest opening weekend for a Musical film). And you don’t want your already drunk friend to ruin your enjoyment, so you drop him off to see Space Chimps (ok, you explain it’s gross to me). I plan to see TDK as soon as the lines calm down so I can’t speculate on certain things (though it’s more than likely that a certain Mr. Ledger’s death and the hype surrounding his last completed performance helped bring the masses). Nonetheless, when I first saw the initial stills of Ledger’s Joker in the jail cell on Fangoria’s cover, I knew that it would be career defining stuff. I just hope that the Academy doesn’t fall over themselves in awarding a nomination (or more) to the guy just because he died. I won’t go on record and say whether he deserves the nod or not because I haven’t seen said performance but the Oscars has become such a farce over the years that it wouldn’t surprise me if the board decided to nominate him for the sole purpose of “placating a still mourning audience”. Sorry if I sound cynical but look at the Academy’s track record in overlooking performances in more “fan friendly” fare and tell me if it doesn’t make sense.

The Plot, as it was:
Jason Statham (The Transporter, War) stars as Chev Chelios, a hitman that awakes one day to find out he’s been poisoned by crime boss Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) with the deadly “Beijing Cocktail”. The serum cuts off responses to the adrenal glands, meaning that the Chevmeister is dead if is heart rate drops past the below acceptable level. Along with trying to square up things with his flighty girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), Chev decides to make his last few hours on earth count by getting revenge on Verona and his crew and trying to stave off the effects of the cocktail with tips from his personal chemist Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam). Yes, it be crazy time!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Ballsy. That’s the kind of entertainment Crank churns out during its 87 minute run time (93 if you see the Director’s Cut). With a film that has its hero engaging in the most illogical drive through a mall since The Blues Brothers, headbanging to “Achy, Breaky Heart” and getting high off of nasal spray, you know the filmmakers aren’t afraid to throw everything against the wall. To their credit, director/writer team Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor get the plot out of the way within…oh, three minutes and frees up the rest of the time for a non-stop chase. The film has style shooting out of its pores, with everything from arcade game style opening graphics, crazy edits & zooms and even a nod to Google Earth (between the shaky camerawork, car thievery and locations pointed out in bold letters, this may be the closest a film gets to resembling the hit video game Grand Theft Auto). It would seem like its too much sizzle and very little steak in Crank but so much is thrown into the mix that very few can argue they haven’t gotten their worth in entertainment. Statham further cements his foothold amongst the last spots for Hollywood Action badasses by bringing that right level of menace and charm to his role. His character isn’t exactly the most likable bastard but his rouge nature makes him somewhat easier to root for. Yoakam (whom I did not recognize at first, in playing a yuppie-esque doctor) makes for quite the colorful character and there are good comic moments involving Statham and Smart but it is admittedly all about the Action here. Never boring, Crank’s biggest fault is probably it’s (to put it kindly) flawed logic. The setup puts Chelios in several eye rolling situations (including the much debated climax….especially debated since there is a sequel in the works) but if you can take the fact that the film is basically one big, guy pleasing, video game like crime tale then you are certain to enjoy Crank more than the usual, fair weather movie-goer. (Note: Along with its several video game references, Crank’s opening & closing theme is Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”. How can you not love that?)

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Chester Bennington, the frontman for the band Linkin Park, is the stoner in the hospital lobby.

Body Count/Violence: 23. It takes a while for the bodies to pile up but Crank manages to be as gory as it is fast paced. Bloody gunplay, brawling, broken necks and limbs, big guys being used as shields for grenades, meat cleaver use, asphyxiation, hand thrust into a sewing machine, car crashes and drug use are all on the menu.

Sexuality/Nudity: If it’s not Amy Smart in those tight corduroy pants in Rat Race (hey, I had to derive some sort of enjoyment from that stinker) then it’s her in boyshort panties here. She and Statham have probably the goofiest sex scene in recent film history, which I won’t give away (let’s just say it gives new meaning to “spectator sport”). Smart’s Eve also gives Chev some extra motivation during a car chase (you figure it out!). There’s also a scene involving two topless masseuses and other scenes with topless women at a pool and a dance club, as well as a glimpse of a photo involving lesbian action. There’s also Statham running the streets in a hospital gown, periodically showing his behind. And I won’t even mention what too much epinephrine apparently does to Chev.

Language/Dialogue: Pretty profane, with the F bomb being dropped nearly 100 times (among other terms).

How bad was it?:
Critics’ view of Crank seemed to generally have to do with whether they could tolerate the A.D.D.-like show put forth for them. Most enjoyed it for what it is, with some going 50/50 on it and a few outright trashing (I guess they were expecting a harrowing, drug drama?).

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Lions Gate Films, which has been specializing in the low budget Action/Horror features over the past five years, financed Crank for $12 million. Released on 9/1/06, it finished the Labor Day weekend in 2nd place with $12.9 million behind the Mark Wahlberg starrer Invincible. It only stayed in the top 10 another two weeks but it ended its run a modest sleeper with a gross of $27.8 million (as well as $16.9 million overseas). It certainly must have pleased LGF, as a sequel is set to be released 4/17/09.

Film: ***/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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