I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Crank

No, this is not the one where Adam Sandler has a magic remote control that he uses to conquer the world, that’s CLICK. This is CRANK, this is the one where Jason Statham (the Transporter himself) is a hitman who gets injected by high concept poison. It’s gonna kill him, but he figures out that it won’t finish until his adrenaline rate goes down. So he tries to run around, have sex, do coke and get in shootouts until he is able to get revenge on the poisoner. So it’s SPEED in a guy, with a side order of revenge.

An inventive thrill ride full of imagination and wit that keeps you constantly involved as it builds to an unbelievable climax… would be a good way to do this movie. Instead they went the DOMINO route of “if you throw every stupid show-offy technique you ever saw in a commercial at the screen, technically it counts as entertainment.” I think I know what they were thinking: he has to keep his adrenaline up, so the movie has to keep its adrenaline up too. But it’s flawed logic. THE JERK is about a moron, but the movie doesn’t have to be moronic. I don’t think SPEED had cameras flying around constantly to convince you that it’s about speed. If you show a guy in hospital gown zooming around on a motorcycle pursued by police, that is by definition somewhat exciting. But when you throw in unnecessary zooms and split screen and do a jokey flashback on one side and then freeze on a guy’s goofy expression and then switch it to black and white and then zoom into Statham’s chest to show an x-ray of his heart beating (a nod to the Furious Movement) AND you gotta throw in “exciting” guitar music made by a guy who used to be in Tangerine Dream who is now trying to rock out, it seems like you’re overcompensating. It isn’t exciting anymore, it’s just annoying. To me it’s another movie that has no build or rhythm at all, just the same frantic shit for 87 minutes straight.

CrankThe responsible parties are two rookie directors who are small time actors and did effects on BIKER BOYZ. My guess is that one directed the movie and then the other one directed it again and then they edited the two versions together using a coin toss or dice to figure out which shot to use where. It’s not nearly as bad as DOMINO, that’s one nice thing I can say. I guess the difference is that it has that cool premise and it sticks to it. It’s a simple, fairly streamlined story. I guess I can see how somebody might be interested to see him get his revenge if they could watch the movie without their mind wandering off to somewhere more peaceful.

On the other hand, I think they do kind of fumble the whole adrenaline rush concept by making him so casual about everything. When he drives through the mall chased by cops in the beginning, he is talking on the phone and doesn’t seem to be even paying attention to the high speed car chase he’s involved in. That might be a funny way to show that he’s seen everything, but doesn’t that sort of contradict the idea that he’s doing all this to terrify himself into staying alive? He sure doesn’t seem like he’s got any adrenaline flowing. Which is it? Unphased tough guy or adrenaline rush? You can’t choose both.
The only other positive thing I can say (this is for you, Thumper’s mom) is that it occasionally has a funny gimmick or over-the-top idea. The opening scene seems promising as he wakes up disoriented, finds a DVD that says “FUCK YOU” on it in Sharpie, puts it in and watches his enemy inject his unconscious body with the poison. In the part where he drives through the mall (not as good as in THE BLUES BROTHERS, by the way) I like that he somehow manages to get his car sideways onto the escalator. But then he stands on top of it and jumps off at the top of the escalator, which is kind of disappointing. I’m pretty sure the Transporter would’ve been able to get the car off the escalator and continue. Oh well.

Remember how I pointed out that the Transporter seems to have some weird racial issues? Maybe it’s Jason Statham himself because he does it again, in this one he announces that he’s gonna “kick some black ass” in order to provoke a bunch of guys so he can keep his energy up. But he has bigger problems in the woman department. He has this nice girlfriend played by Amy Smart (the dangerous babe on SMITH if you saw that show before it was cancelled) who doesn’t even know he’s a hitman. Again, he needs to keep his adrenaline pumping so he decides he wants to have sex with her on a crowded block in Chinatown. I don’t know, maybe she’s shy, so she says no. So he rapes her. But the way they go from “our hero is raping his nice girlfriend in public” to “this is a fun time at the movies” is they show that she starts enjoying it and getting into it. I thought that old saw died with the westerns but no, here it is again, a great fantasy for any of you sickos out there: if you rape her good enough you’ll win her over. Wonderful. This scene is supposed to be the comic highlight – you can tell because they have all these shots of the crowd watching as he screws her doggystyle, and then a tour bus of school girls pulls up to enjoy the show. And in case you, like the character played by Amy Smart, have already forgiven him for raping her – he decides to push it further by pulling out his phone and making a call during the sex. Which is, in my opinion, rude.

That reminds me of something completely unrelated to CRANK that I want to get off my chest. I’ve probaly written about cell phone etiquette before. I’m kind of a caveman or a luddovite or whatever on this issue. I personally am not a cell phone guy. Usually I figure if it is important enough to call somebody, it is important enough to either be indoors or find a damn payphone. And I don’t like the idea of walking around anywhere in the world and if somebody calls you you gotta decide whether to answer it or not. That’s what leaving the house is for. You don’t have to worry about that shit until you get home. And you never have to worry about your fuckin “minutes.” But I’m not blamin you people, I completely understand why you want your phones, it is very convenient. And I will understand even better some day if I fall through a sinkhole or get trapped under a collapsing viaduct. I will reach for my hip and think “Where the fuck is my cell phone side-holster?” before realizing “Oh, that’s right, I have never owned a cell phone.” And then I will sit there for however long it is that man can live without water, considering whether or not it was worth it.

So you guys are probaly smart to carry those horrible things, in an emergency you can always call for help or download the latest jamz from the Black Eye Peas. But since you’re the ones playing with them I believe the burden is on you to institute a worldwide acceptance of common sense cell phone etiquette rules. I mean for God’s sake, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t make a phone call while doggystyling Amy Smart in front of a crowded square and a bus full of tourists as Mr. Statham does in this picture. How is it gonna be special for Amy Smart, or for the tourists, if you don’t even have your mind on it? Multi-tasking may be valued in your office (or in this case hitman) job but there are some situations where your focus should be on interacting with other human beings (in this case Amy Smart and a hundred or so others) and not on showing off how many “tasks” you can stack up at once.

True story: a few weeks ago I was walking down a sidewalk and had to go around a young hipster couple passionately making out in an intentionally obstructive fashion. I saw them from half a block away, but it was only as I maneuvered around them that I noticed the dude was listening to his voicemails while he kissed her. Of course, this is not as bad as making a phone call during public sex, but it shows that the attitude does exist, these assholes really are that far gone. I guarantee you this guy I saw has the willingness and the ability to execute that type of bullshit. The threat is imminent.

Of course, the more common problem is assholes going into a bank or a 7-11 or what have you and expecting the poor clerk to be able to make a transaction with them while they are talking to somebody else about fixing the heater in the pool or who’s gonna pick up the wine to have for dinner. It used to be they just looked down on the workers serving them or treated them like shit, now they are trying to avoid even talking to them or acknowledging their existence on this plane. As far as this guy’s concerned he just paid a magic cash register for his Slurpee. He didn’t even see the guy he gave the money to.

And the problem is even worse now with this type of phone that’s getting more and more popular, and this is the real reason I wanted to go off on this tangent. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, what the holy fuckballs is up with those phones that attach to your ear? I don’t know what it’s called but it’s a little silver headset type phone that actually ATTACHES into your ear AND YOU ACTUALLY KEEP IT THERE ALL DAY. I’m sorry but I have to use capitals to convey how fuckin nuts this is, italics doesn’t cut it. I call these “Lobot phones” because that’s what a nerd told me is the name of the guy in Star Wars who works for Billy Dee Williams and he has a cyborg attachment thing around his head. Lobot is Billy Dee’s manager or something and he thinks he’s pretty fuckin cool walkin around doing whatever you do with that cyborg head thing all day, and this is the same way for you weirdos with your Lobot phones. It used to be if you had a pager you looked important, then if you had a phone, now that is commonplace so if you want to look important you gotta have a phone ATTACHED TO YOUR FUCKIN HEAD. I sincerely hope that the next step is to get them surgically implanted, because maybe when your hair products drip into it and you get infected you will learn your lesson.

I mean seriously, have you ever considered the logic behind the Lobot phone? By wearing a Lobot phone you are announcing to the world that you spend more of your time on the phone than off, so it’s just more convenient to have it in your ear all day. Or that the discomfort and looking like a fuckin jackass factors are overcome by the huge convenience of not having to take the phone out of your pocket to answer it. With a regular phone you have to pull it out of your pocket, you have to put it back into your pocket when you’re done. Way too much of a hassle. Better to have a phone in your ear all day.

I saw a guy at a concert wearing a Lobot phone. Really? You’re expecting a call during the show? What? I can’t hear your. There’s loud music. I’ll have to call you back. Don’t worry, I have a phone attached to my head, it will be easy.

And when you walk around in public with these things, down the sidewalks we pay for with our taxes, into the businesses where we expect to not have to deal with cyborgs, it can cause problems. Of course there is the now-familiar problem of hearing someone talking and having to determine whether they are talking to you, talking to themselves, or making a phone call. These are pretty noticeable, they look fuckin ridiculous, so when you see them on somebody you might assume they are making a phone call even if they’re not. They try to talk to you and you ignore them because you think they’re talking to their friend on the phone, then when you realize they are talking to you you try to get them to repeat what they were saying but by that time they actually are making a phone call. And then you realize they were trying to warn you you are about to fall into a sinkhole but they are distracted by their phone call so they forget and leave you there to die in the sinkhole without a cellphone or even an iPod to jam out to some new tracks or files or whatever. And you can take pictures because you have a digital camera but you can’t send the pictures to anybody because you would have to hook it up to a computer first and attach them to an email, but you can’t hook it up to a computer because there is not a computer there, you are in a sinkhole.

And speaking of being left to die in a hole, I believe I was talking about the movie CRANK. If he hadn’t raped her maybe it would be funnier later when she gives him a blowjob while he’s in a high speed car chase, busting off shots out the window. Beat that, Tommy Lee. I don’t know, this type of scene would be very impressive in a genuine hardcore porno, but in this context it just seems kind of sleazy. Then she stops abruptly without, you know, finishing. Just so you know how hilarious this is they have the sound of a needle scraping off of a record. Kids today might not know what that sound is, but it’s from an old technology called the comedy machine.

I appreciate some of the crazy fantasy ideas in the movie, but because they’re trying so hard to be over-the-top they end up not making the minimum amount of sense that would make the ideas work. For example, in a climactic confrontation with his enemies Statham points a finger at them instead of a gun, and they laugh. But when he twitches his thumb and mouths bang the guy he’s pointing at gets a bullet in the head, and everybody freaks out. What is this, a magic finger gun? No, it turns out it was THE GANG OF TEN OR TWELVE TRIADS STANDING TWO FEET BEHIND HIM HOLDING REAL GUNS! If only they had seen ten or twelve guys standing behind him they wouldn’t have let their guard down.

That didn’t work, but I was somewhat won over by the even more ridiculous ending where he pulls his enemy off a helicopter. He’s gonna die anyway so he doesn’t mind falling. But to make it more personal, he doesn’t let the guy just plummet to his death – he strangles him in mid-air! The effects during this part almost look like H.R. Puffinstuff. After the strangling he realizes he’s got some time before he hits the ground so he takes out his cell phone (here is another reason why it would be good to have one) and leaves a loving answering machine message for Amy Smart. This makes no sense on any level except story and character, and that’s why for once it works. I liked it. Then there’s another little touch at the end I liked. Nothing great but I can’t give it away in case you actually watch this movie. You gotta have some kind of cheese at the end of this maze.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I hope you don’t think I’m making a habit of this, but in fairness I gotta admit I watched this late at night and I fell asleep a couple times. From discussing it with other people I now know that I missed one really offensive part (accusing an innocent Arab cabdriver of being al Quaeda so that people will attack him) and one apparently cool part (something about him being able to see the subtitles on the screen).

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 27th, 2006 at 2:06 pm and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Crank”

  1. I absolutly love this movie. Shame you don’t Vern. Damn. I’m too tired to get into it!

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>