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

Crank: High Voltage

tn_crank2I gave CRANK two tries. I really wanted to like the movie, but I sort of hated it. I had a hard time getting past the hyperactive editing and camerawork – Jason Statham would do these things that should be exciting but the directors, “Neveldine/Taylor,” were hammering me over the head so hard with all their visual tricks that it just seemed boring. I honestly fell asleep the first time I saw it and missed that charming moment where he causes an innocent cab driver to be lynched by pointing at him and yelling “Al Quaeda!” on a crowded street.

And that’s maybe a bigger problem I had: the overall douchebaggy attitude of it, the Marilyn Manson going door-to-door trying to shock people approach to humor. Ha ha, he said something racist, you’re not supposed to do that. Oooh, he raped his girlfriend in front of a bus of Japanese school girls and they took pictures, what a fun time at the movies. (NOTE: I have been informed it’s not rape because she eventually liked it, like in STRAW DOGS.)

But I mean, beneath all that bullshit I can’t deny that there’s some kind of charm to it. I like how absurd it is, the premise of this guy who was poisoned and he has to run around kicking ass to keep his heart rate up so he can live long enough to get revenge. appealsAnd it’s full of funny ideas, like him strangling a guy as they fall out of a helicopter, and also leaving a voicemail for his girlfriend while he plummets to his death. The Ain’t It Cool talkbackers kept trying to convince me it was good, so I watched it again, hoping I would change my mind. I even made this dumb “Vern’s Appeals Process” logo and I was gonna try to watch popular movies that I didn’t like years ago, like this and maybe NATURAL BORN KILLERS or something, and I’d see if they would grow on me. But CRANK didn’t.

Now in certain circles they’re talking up CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE even more. I was real curious but I wasn’t about to pay to see it in a theater. But today it came out on the DVD.

mp_crank2I guess I would say it’s a little better, and more enlightened. This time the public sex with his girfriend is consensual. A step in the right direction, although he does ass rape some guy with a shotgun. (Get it? Ass rape.) And as far as I could tell it wasn’t even a real bad guy, just a dude he needed information out of. But to be fair I thought it was hilarious in PUNISHER WAR ZONE that he actually fired missiles at mere drug couriers, so I guess I can’t be too hard on Statham’s character, who by the way has one of those stupid sounding character names, like Desolation Williams in GHOSTS OF MARS, that I can only assume were put into the script as a placeholder or ‘find and replace’ typo mishap and then actually put on film by some kind of impossible-to-predict chain of  coincidence and incompetence. So I won’t say the name in this review. To me he’s Detective John Crank.

The camera is still spinning around too much (and this time shot on handheld consumer level camcorders like your nephew’s birthday video) but somehow I was okay with the style this time. Don’t know if it’s more coherent or if I’m just getting used to it. The hyperactive music by Mike Patton really fits the movie well and maybe helped get me into the mood for it, I don’t know.

There are several amusing gimmicks, like a talk show/childhood flashback and a scene where Statham and some guy he’s fighting wear rubber suits of themselves so they can fight like Gargantuas. There’s a shootout in a strip club that causes a stripper’s implants to leak. And the bad guy puts cigarette ashes on Chev’s heart while he’s getting surgery. And spits a loogie on it. That kind of stuff.

Instead of a poison this time his problem is that his heart has been stolen and replaced with a shitty artificial one with a battery that keeps running out or getting stolen. So he has to tase himself or touch a high voltage box to stay alive. It’s an even more absurd premise than the first one, and I can get behind that. Even aside from the whole artificial heart thing I think it’s funny that his heart is so powerful and legendary that the villains treat it like the Lost Ark. Also they’re planning to steal his dick but fortunately that doesn’t get mentioned much.

Even though I don’t really like these movies I gotta give Statham some credit for them. He doesn’t get to do elaborate fights like in the TRANSPORTERs, but it’s a very physical performance, even his posture is impressive, and he’s running around doing all kinds of crazy shit. I’m pretty sure in this one they really dragged him off the back of a speed boat, that was a good scene. I also like that he plays it 100% serious. That’s one thing it’s got over a Michael Bay movie – even though it’s trying too hard to be funny at least he’s not cracking a bunch of fuckin jokes. He acts like he thinks he’s still in THE BANK JOB or something.

Basically it feels like a live action cartoon made by racist A.D.D. skateboard punks obsessed with porn and old video games. The racial stereotypes are maybe more organic than in the comedy of Michael Bay, because they have Asian and Hispanic gangs fighting each other, so they’re gonna start throwing slurs I guess. It’s not really offensive but it just makes you feel like you’re hanging around with a bunch of fuckin morons, because everybody has to always have a racial or ethnic insult to say to everybody else. For extra measure they got the late David Carradine in the movie in yellowface and a disturbingly boney Bai Ling basically playing a whole movie as the “me so horny” hooker from that scene in FULL METAL JACKET.

I don’t think this means Nevildine/Taylor are racist, I think this is one of those things where it’s “ha ha ha, it’s so racist, can you believe we put that in there? ha ha, it’s so terrible!” which is in a way is worse because that means they know better.

There’s a making-of thing on the DVD where they keep talking about how they couldn’t believe they “got away with it” and that’s why it was so great because the studio must not have read the script because there was no way they would want to make that movie, etc. You could say something like that if you made a really subversive movie that would challenge the way people think, but in this case it just means they made a movie where a guy dry humps an old lady and farts when some gay guys shock him with an electric dog collar and then at the end he catches on CGI fire and flips off the camera. Whooooahhhh, I cannot believe we got away with that. Fighting the system from the inside, dude.

I don’t know if it’s fair, but I get a bad impression of these Nevildine/Taylor jokers. Let me explain how I see them. I saw a quote on the Wikipedia page for Dave Chappelle, attributed to an article from the Sacramento Bee. Apparently Chappelle was doing standup in 2004 and dipshits in the audience kept yelling “I’m Rick James, bitch!” and shit like that from his TV show. He got so annoyed he left the stage for a while, but when he came back out he said, “You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you’re not smart enough to get what I’m doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.”

What does that have to do with CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE? Let me point you to the scene where Dwight Yoakam tells his black girlfriend/assistant/ho to go do something for him and when she asks why he says, “Is Doc Miles gonna have to choke a bitch?” It’s a reference to the great Chappelle’s Show sketch where Wayne Brady asked the same question. The joke in the sketch is sort of a riff on TRAINING DAY. The laugh comes from this clean cut day time talk show host turning out to actually be a fuckin psycho, and from the discomfort of Chappelle being stuck in a car with him and not knowing how to get out of the situation. It’s not supposed to be cool that Wayne Brady is a pimp, it’s supposed to be fucked up. The joke is oh shit, the guy I’m getting a ride from is threatening to strangle a whore. In CRANK 2 the joke is ha ha, pimps are funny, Chappelle’s Show is funny. I’m Rick James bitch! I’m Rick James bitch! L’il Jon. Hwhhhuuuttt? Ha ha ha ha. It’s funny when you say bitch. Stupid bitch. Ha ha. Choke a bitch. Hwhhhuuuuttt?

What I am proposing is that Neveldine/Taylor are personally responsible for Dave Chappelle quitting his show, running off to South Africa for a while and going into semi-retirement.

But you know what, I’m not gonna go out on some negativity. Just as I give Statham credit for his performance as John Crank I will give some credit to these two bozos. It’s not illegal to be a douche, and they are a couple of somewhat talented douches. These two movies do stand out from the pack, they are their own thing, and I feel like I get why somebody would like them.

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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 Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 at 7:07 pm and is filed under Action, 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.

80 Responses to “Crank: High Voltage”

  1. caruso_stalker217

    September 8th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    NATURAL BORN KILLERS is terrible.

  2. After Doc Miles said his “choke a bitch” line he should have looked at the camera with a goofy face a la Mr. Roper on Three’s Company.

  3. Thanks for reviewing this one! I haven’t seen the movie and probably never will, but your review for the first one was one of my all time favorites. Getting to read some more of your Crank abuse is reason enough for this thing to exist. Now I’m hoping they make another one.

  4. In regards to the “choke a bitch” moment, I felt what sold it was the incredulous look on the face of his “ho”. Clearly this is an overquoted line, and her look said, “You don’t scare me, and you are a sad person.” In regards to the rest of the film, I love it. I found the whole thing exhilarating. I for one have nothing but admiration for the middle finger ending.

  5. Vern, if you feel the need for more Neveldine / Taylor in your life, get yourself to the theater to catch GAMER, which they also wrote and directed. It’s like a cross between CRANK, THE RUNNING MAN and WALL*E. Based on the reviews (shitty) and amount of dough it took in over the weekend (not much), it isn’t going to be around for very long.

    For what it’s worth, I liked it quite a bit, but I’m known for horrible lapses of taste.

  6. I liked CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE but the hateful tone and the racism kind of bugged me. Am I supposed to laugh when he calls a Chinese guy a “Chink” or treats his girlfriend like shit? I don’t understand this FAMILY GUY style humour where things are supposed to be funny because they are offensive. The best humour is always a little offensive but I think you need a joke in there somewhere.

    Still, this film had a lot of good shit in it so it worked for me. I liked the opening surgery scene and the kaiju monster fight. I can’t believe you didn’t mention the disembodied head in the fish tank, which was my favourite part. It has more imagination in it than most other action films but I wish they would apply it to a movie that wasn’t trying so hard to flip me off.

  7. I also watched Gamer over the weekend, Vern. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that you will hate it to death, it’s complete rubbish. The Chappelle stuff in this review reminded me of yourself actually. There seems to be a misunderstanding, especially on AICN but occassionally here as well, that Vern likes shit movies when in fact he likes good movies which other people dismiss out of hand. Gamer deserves nothing but a stern shake of the head. Just as Chappelle Show was more than a bunch of cheap catchphrases, I’d like to think Vern’s criticism is more than “HAHA Direct To Video! Cheesy stuff!” because I don’t believe he’s ever written a piece like that in his life.

    By the way, I liked the DVD box (FBI warning included) with the ‘damning by faint praise’ quote. I’d like to see that come back!

  8. I also saw Gamer recently Vern, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that you will hate it to death. Everything you dislike about films distilled into 90 odd minutes. It’s complete rubbish and I wouldn’t recommend you watch it even to elicit an entertaining pan.

  9. Vern, I think you misinterpreted the “choke a bitch” line a bit. When I saw the film, it seemed to me that the line was put in there because it’s Dwight Yoakim saying it, making the moment similar to the Wayne Brady sketch because it’s “fucked up” to here Dwight Yoakim (one of the nicest guys on the planet in the real world) saying that phrase because it is so out of whack with his real persona. At least that’s how I read the scene.

  10. I love these movies, because they’re absurd action cartoons that do what most such mainstream actioneers don’t do…the perfect phrase is what some critic said of TOXIC AVENGER back in the day: “It doesn’t push the envelope – It shreds it!”

    Racist? Sexist? Homophobic*? Why yes. I’m sorry, but I just loved the audacity that comes from the rather (proudly) juvenile attitude of the filmmakers. And really, you could tell Statham was into the joke, which maybe is why it probably works as well as it does.

    Shit guys, you know what this is? Shakeycam meets Troma. I’m serious, I’m onto something. Only problem with that theory is, CRANK 2 is good.

    *=I’ll somewhat defend the gay gang. How many Hollywood movies have gay action heroes anyway? Besides they were the guys who came in at the end to save the day, and help out Jason Statham. Sure they’re the CRUISING/Blue Oyster leather S&M stereotype, but just consider that.

  11. Vern no love for the head punting at the end??

  12. I love Crank 2 as well. I think it’s the cinema equivalent of early punk rock. Crank 2 doesn’t give a shit about morality, logic, or physics, and I think it’s the first American studio picture to throw the gauntlet back at Japanese films and say, “We can be just as crazy as you fuckers.” If this film had had Takashi Miike’s name over the end credits I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least.

    At the same time, Vern’s logic and arguments against the film are unassailable (as usual). I can’t begin to defend Neveldine/Taylor on charges of douchery. And no, the film is not subversive in any important manner like, say, Fight Club or V for Vendetta. But I gotta give these guys credit for sheer, exuberant audacity. Say what you will, this thing is never boring. When I saw this in the theater and they unveiled the severed head of the villain being kept alive in a tank I think I actually clapped. The middle finger ending was the icing on the cake. It may not be politically or socially relevant, but I wish more films had the balls to fully commit to a stupid premise like this.

    Gamer looks like shit though.

  13. Hmmm, I might be able to buy Lorin’s interpretation of the “choke a bitch” part. I’d have to see it again I guess. Which I probaly wouldn’t. But he might be right.

    And I already forgot about the head in the tank, but I agree, that was one of the highlights. I always enjoy a good head in a tank. It would be even better if I remembered anything about that character from the two times I saw part 1.

  14. Also, the movie would have been about 100 times better if the character was named Detective John Crank. I think everyone here can agree on this point.

  15. I don´t know why (i hate this Avid movies) i liked the first Crank. I´m still waiting to see the sequel, because it´s not yet released in my estupido country.

  16. Crank, John Crank.

    That’s so funny – reminds me of that Simpsons bit where Homer is being investigated – “This guy doesn’t write to movie stars – he writes to movies (reads Homer’s letter) “Dear Die Hard, You Rock! Do you know Indiana Jones?””

  17. “And no, the film is not subversive in any important manner like, say, Fight Club or V for Vendetta. ”

    What’s so subversive about a soft actioneer like V FOR VENDETTA? If we were talking about the book, then yeah that would make total sense. But I guess you weren’t?

    VFV is about as subversive as Star Wars.

    Anyway, love the sense of humor of those crazy fucking CRANK filmmakers. They also penned a draft of that upcoming JONAH HEX western where a guy got ambushed by Indians while raping a dog. At least that’s what I heard, and yeah I’m pretty sure WB cut that out. Though imagine if they didn’t?

  18. It wasn’t rape in part 1, because she liked it like in “Straw Dogs”, it wasn’t rape, because she liked it like almost every Bondgirl did! (“No, get your fingers off me, Mr. Bond. You are a horrible person, I hate you!” She slaps bond. Bond kisses her. “I love you Mr. Bond, let’s fuck me.”)
    Haven’t seen part 2 yet. So all I can say about it, is that either James Bond & Co. are horrible rapists, or Detective John Crank isn’t. And yes, I just woke up and are a little bit cranky.

  19. Shit, my last sentence was a pun. Sorry, that was unintentional.

  20. I hated, hated, hated this movie at least the part I saw. I had to stop the film after the strip club shoot-out. To me, the racial – and sexual – stereotypes were just too much. I mean, Bai Ling’s role is just… she gets subtitled even though you can understand her, she’s sex-crazed and stupid, and then she gets punched by Elizabeth Smart. I couldn’t stand it, and she’s just one element of many even in these opening moments.

    This film made me angry.

  21. “VFV is about as subversive as Star Wars. ”

    Well, “VfV” advocates the violent overthrow of the government by the people. The message is told in a more gentle manner than it was in the book, but it was still provocative enough to give Ebert a minor fit when he reveiwed the film on his show. Of course it’s possible that he just didn’t like to see the pretty parliament building blown to smithereens.

    Now, if you’re saying that true subversion can never be achieved through a medium that is primarity concerned with entertainment, I’d be on board with you. But, as it stands, I’d still rank “VfV” as a better attempt at subversion than “Star Wars” and the Power Puff Girls.

  22. No, VfV advocates the overthrow of fascism by becoming a faceless mass of mooks. It tells you exactly what to think about every single item in it. It is intellectually lazy and obvious. I mean, I like the film, but it’s not subversive, just as Wall*E is not subversive or anti-consumerist.

  23. Interesting take on the film. A couple of points:

    It’s not really developed, but I think it is made somewhat clear in the movie that the fascism in question wasn’t imposed on the population, but was the result of a surrender of their rights in the face of fear and weakness. So, morso than some dystopia pictures, at least “VfV” offers the idea that the population are complicit in their oppression.

    Also, I’m not sure that faceless mooks are what the film-makers were going for. I’d venture to say that the mask-wearing mob is supposed to signify solidarity behind an anarchistic ideal.

    But having said that, I’m not a fan of the film, and, frankly, I found its message kind of predictable.

  24. “Well, “VfV” advocates the violent overthrow of the government by the people.”

    Yeah, that’s what Star Wars is about, too.

  25. VfV is as subversive as STAR WARS… actually, if you’re taking the prequels, that’s probably
    reasonably accurate. They actually both have the same thing to say about government
    and the way that totalitarianism arises from fear manipulated by the rulers. If anything,
    VfV offers a more hopeful message than the prequels.

    and CJ– call me old fashioned, but I would say that saying “I love you Mr. Bond, let’s fuck me.” (while not technically correct from a strictly grammatical perspective) pretty much negates any alegations of rape, although a charge of misdomeanor
    assault might stick (or, “unasked for kissing”). Not that Mr. Bond is exactly and enightened individual or anything, but I think Det. John Crank is more fairly compared to STRAW DOGS than to Bond.

  26. The problem with V is that its “message” had already been beaten into the ground by the time it came out. The whole thing just made me role my eyes. And what the fuck is “eggy in a basket”? I say this as someone who’s lived in the UK for all of my 28 years.

  27. Ebert had ‘a minor fit’ about a movie he gave 3 stars?

  28. I would like to point out that Statham never penetrates Amy Smart until she begs for it. Clearly, Crank 1 is a feminist manifesto.

  29. RRA – Yeah, I do think that a big-budget studio movie that glamorizes the bombing of public buildings as a means to unite the public against a fascist government that colludes with the media to brainwash them was pretty subversive during the Bush administration. I thought it was the only movie made during that time that spoke to how I felt about what was going on, but you’re free to disagree. Whether it was as ballsy as the book is a different matter, and you’re right, of course it wasn’t.

    However I think we should be focusing our attention right now on John Crank and his many accomplishments. Remember when he beat that guy up while he was on fire? I thought that was pretty neat.

  30. V FOR VENDETTA was criminally simplistic. There were the good guys (V, that Jew chick) and the baddies (Fascist regime), and really what controversial conflict of morality does V do besides blowing up (empty) iconic buildings and killing endless henchmen? OK maybe the torture sequence? That has merit, though the movie played it off as righteous.

    The book though, you have Alan Moore putting that plot, but with the fucking dagger shived into your gut that you have a choice: total “order” (totaltarian government) or total “anarchy” (no central government). Yes the fascist regime is quite awful, but is anarchy really the answer?

    Now that’s subversive: Making you the reader almost be forced to back V the violent terrorist because hey, he’s an underdog against the pigs. Also, he sports an awesome mask.*Kinda like how the villain in WATCHMEN is actually the hero ultimately, if you think about it. The book, not movie.

    VFV was a decent movie, but its an action movie guys. Its not as meaningful or as renegade as some folks make it out to be. Especially since for a hero trying to “inspire” the masses to revolt, he does what 95% of it? What exactly do the people in mass do on their own against the government aside from dressing up early for Halloween or local youthful vandalism?

    That said, Hugo Weaving was awesome. Why won’t Hollywood give him more good leading roles?

    *=Unsurprisingly, Moore bad mouths the movie. Yet he apparently loves that the movie inspired the Anti-Scientology folks to wear the mask as a fuck you to them.

  31. Mr Sublety: That’s the point! When it comes to the moment that John Crank (I love that name :D) really starts to have sex with her, she is obviously okay with it. And not as in the lame rapist excuse “She wasn’t fighting against it”, but pretty much in the non-rape “Okay, I wanna have sex, too” way. She’s like “No, we can’t have sex in public now. Or…can we?”
    I don’t wanna pretend to know what’s going on in the head of a fictional woman, especially if she is a character in a movie, where no character has more than one dimension, and I don’t want deny the scene is questionable, but it’s not portrayed as rape! Without a doubt as a weird male fantasy (“Dear Penthouse, today I had spontanious rough sex in public.”), but the only difference between this and the typical “I-hate-you-now.I-love-you”-filmscene, is that they aren’t playing romantic music in the background.
    I understand every piece of criticism about Crank, but there is no rape scene in this movie! And believe me, I’m prety sensitive about rape im films. I was back then one of the first and loudest people who even protested the ending of “40 Days and 40 Nights”, because in the end the protagonist gets plain and simple raped by his ex-girlfriend and it’s just not cool, doesn’t matter how many dreams with funny CGI boobs they play during it.

  32. One thing I like about Neveldine Slash Taylor is that he seems to be one of the few American filmmakers out there making modern versions the more crazy and sleazy exploitation movies that were popular in the 70s. Those movies where you just can’t believe what you are seeing. Where there are scenes that you have to just marvel that they got a whole crew together to film it and then actors that would actually agree to do these things on camera knowing full well that it is being recorded for posterity. I wish more movies did that kind of stuff.

    Also, remember the 80s? When there was that law passed that every action film had to have a scene in a strip club? The one that was repealed in the 90s? I like that Neveldine & Taylor are trying to get that little piece of legislation going again.

    There are definitely other directors out there making these kinds of exploitation films, but a lot of them seem to be doing throwbacks or homages to older stuff. Like Rob Zombie or Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER. Or Tarantino. Not as many seem to be making modern, 21st century craziness. There are probably a few other directors, but I can’t think of many. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE and TRANSPORTER 2 maybe.

    And I have to agree with some of the above posters, Vern. You probably aren’t going to like GAMER. It’s pretty much exactly the version of THE RUNNING MAN you would imagine the directors of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE making. If there is one thing Neveldine Slash Taylor is, it’s an auteur.

  33. Crank 2 is the best comedy I’ve seen all year. I have yet to see this Hangover film, Whatever Works, and Jennifer’s Body, but I doubt any of those will be funnier than Crank 2. Bruno was really funny too, but not as good as Crank 2.

  34. All I remember about the villain in CRANK THE FIRST is that he liked to get blowjobs while feeding raw meat to dogs. I thought that was pretty awesome.

  35. Jake – I think you’re onto something mate with your analysis.

  36. C.J. — I remembered the scene being pretty uncomfortable so I went back and re-watched it, and you know, you’re pretty much right right, its tamer than I remembered. Still has a kind of mysogenistic, sadistic vibe which makes me feel sort of dirty, though. I think that’s why I remember it being worse than it really is. That John Crank can be kind of an asshole.

  37. Interesting take Vern. I’m not going to defend these films: I thought both were fun to watch but ultimately pretty stupid despite their pretensions to dumb genius. What I do think is noteworthy about them is that both take the sort of hyperactive editing that you’re usually down on them and use it as an integral part of the story. So they’re clearly aware of what they’re doing with all the daft genre segments and the camera, rather than simply doing it that way because that’s how it’s done in these kind of films.

  38. It’s somewhat troubling to me that you guys don’t understand that the nuance of the rape myth. The reason it’s offensive is because she says “NO” then he smacks her, and then she says yes. The underlying idea being, “No means yes” and that roughing a woman up is a good way to get her to have sex.

    I wasn’t offended by the sex scene in either Crank or Crank 2 because both films establish a world of universal S&M play. Everything about the movies is tops and bottoms, ergo, the odd sexual behavior struck me as simply kinky instead of icky-rapey.

  39. Also, Gamer is way more Robocop than it is Running Man.

  40. Hunte D.: But he doesn’t smack her! The worst thing he does in this scene is grabbing her ankle and pulling her back to him, and even then he has a sad “Forgive me, but I don’t wanna die”-look in his face!
    Like I said, it IS a questionable scene, but not a rape scene.

  41. I think it’s interesting that everybody sees things in that scene that weren’t there. It’s like people who swore they saw the knife entering Janet Leigh in Psycho. Perhaps this scene is more revealing than its makers had intended.

  42. “Ebert had ‘a minor fit’ about a movie he gave 3 stars?”

    Yeah. It was on his show. He generally liked the film, but thought that the parliament explosion “went too far.” I’m not kidding when I think he might have been shocked simply on aesthetic terms.

    It wouldn’t have been the first time that Ebert showed a bit of excessive uptightness: his first review of Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” is so hilariously uptight (and so utterly wrong) that they included it with one version of the film’s dvd.

  43. I loved Crank and I liked Crank 2 almost as much. I actually think they are equally good, but the novelty value is wearing off a bit.

    The interesting thing is that I don’t often like films that try too much to be “hard” and “cool”. For example I didn’t like Natural Born Killers, or Dobermann (The french cult actioner from 90’s, which might be an interesting film for Vern to check out. It stars Vincent Cassell and Monical Bellucci).

    But I like the attitude in these Crank movies. Maybe it’s because they just go all the way with it. It’s all 100% anarchistic, anything can happen at any turn. Also I think the ideas and execution are often genuinely creative and original, and skillfully made.

    I don’t usually like video farts, but I think the camerawork and editing are often so original and unique here, that I have to dig them a little bit. And I hate home video -looking films, but even that somehow really fits Crank 2.

    I don’t think I’m that interested in Crank 3 if they decide to make one, thought. After two films I think we have seen what this franchise has to offer, and I would like to see the filmmakers stretch out a bit to a different kind of direction. Apparently Gamer is awful, but maybe they have other interesting things to offer in the future.

    Morally I don’t really find Crank movies problematic. Are they racist? I don’t think so, because I think people of all races are shown in pretty much equally nihilistic light. I don’t think they are misogynistic, because men are treated just as badly as women. We might see a lot of T & A in these films, but we also see a good amount of male nudity, particularly from Statham. And I didn’t think the scene in Crank 1 was rape, and I can be touchy on the subject. For example I think similar scenes in Basic Instict and Straw Dogs are very questionable.

    I mean, sure, Crank 1 & 2 are immoral movies… But they are immoral about everyone and everything. Everyone gets insulted, degraded, abused and hurt in equal manner.

  44. I’m pretty surprised at the aloof attitudes showing up on here about this film.

    My terminology may be a little off but I believe if Mr Tarantino had a crack at something like this some would be falling over themselves to justify certain (totally non-offensive) scenes. In this review Vern, it’s almost like you’re looking for things to get offended by. I get that you weren’t too hard on it and at least looked for some merit but still, I think it’s harsh to judge CRANK on anything more than it is.

    The Al Qaeda bit… really? It was a throwaway gag at worst.

    “the Marilyn Manson going door-to-door trying to shock people approach to humor.”

    Well I don’t want to look like I’m trying to compare Mr Tarantino to these chumps but PULP FICTION wasn’t chock-full of those types of scenes?… Male Rape?, Comedic overdose scene?, the inherent comedy in killing someone in a car in broad daylight?, Characters displaying racist tendencies?

    Not having a go at PULP though….. it’s a favourite of mine but CRANK was almost the most fun I’ve had at the cinema in ages. Is the outdoor sex (most certainly not rape) scene a highlight? No. The Al Qaeda part particularly funny? Nope, is it a ballsy action movie that has the courage of its convictions and a healthy dose of comedy to ensure it’s not taken too seriously…. fuck yes.

    Maybe I’m not seeing the finer points (I believe I am, however) but this is closer for me to the movie Grindhouse should have been. Not the Death Proof self-indulgent wankfest that QT crapped out that a lot of reviewers seemed to fall over themselves to justify.

    I’m only bringing this up because, up to now, I mostly seem to find myself nodding in agreement with the sentiments towards film here (never read the CRANK review). I love this sight and am not looking to argue.

    For me, Crank was a breath of fresh air amidst the onslaught of safe/generic action movie crap. I love my Die Hard, Predator, Terminator 1 in equal measure and I definitely don’t think CRANK stands up as a seminal action pic but it’s completely harmless, fun, action packed mayhem and I salute the makers for staying true to their concept. (forgetting CRANK 2 exists right now of course)

    A buddy of mine once said that CRANK 2 represents everything wrong with Hollywood action pictures today. I told him to fuck off. It’s like he was comparing it to Bays output or something. That may sound closer to the truth to some around here but not I sir, not I.

    Don’t fancy GAMER much though…. DISTRICT 9 rocked however! (I know they aren’t connected)

    Apologies for the long post peeps… I was trying to cover all bases and rambled a bit.

    One last note, the first CRANK left me with the impression that Statham may be our (my) next Bruise Willis. Give him a solid franchise with a good director and I think he has wings. Will he ever be as good an actor? doubtful but it was a while before Bruce started knocking it out of the park more regularly like in Pulp Fiction/12 Monkeys or Unbreakable.

  45. Apologies for using the “falling over themselves” thing twice. It was a long post and I forgot.

  46. That’s okay Leonard, we all know about your condition. :)

  47. I don’t have the dvd and all I could find on youtube was this version of the crank 1 scene in question with a song dubbed over it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eakw4Em0_1c

    But even without the sound there’s no ambiguity about it. It’s not just “no means yes” but no over and over again, trying to pull away, being grabbed by the ankles, knocking him over, then when she tries to see that he’s okay he grabs her and she says “no no no no” and starts hitting him on the chest repeatedly, then he pins her down and she looks like she’s crying…

    what the fuck, dude? I mean yes, in the reality of the movie she decides she likes it and stops fighting. That’s why it’s not cool, though. Not that it would fit the movie if it was LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT all the sudden but the whole reason why it’s offensive is that attitude that if you keep raping she’ll eventually be cool with it. Just perform a rape and hopefully it will turn out to not count as a rape. Get raping, guys! Or non-raping. Almost raping. I don’t see how the exact time of penetration or the alleged apologetic look in his eyes changes anything.

    I wouldn’t say I was offended by the movies though. I do agree that they’re harmless and that the constant racism and everything is sort of the world it takes place in. But some movies I feel like the personalities of the filmatists comes through and in this case I don’t like what I perceive as their personalities. They rub me the wrong way. It’s not so much I’m offended by a joke where a guy causes an Arab to be racially profiled and possibly killed as that I just think the people who keep cracking jokes like that are douchebags. They remind me of those asshole comics that used to have that show with Colin Quinn after the Daily Show.

    So that’s why I’m torn on these movies I guess. But like I said I want to like them. I like things about them.

  48. But Mr. M — you DO see the knife touching her. Hitchcock is a bald fat liar.

    http://www.sewergator.com/gfz/psycho/

    Its just a few frames, but its there.

  49. Hey Vern,

    I realise your reply was to multiple posts but I think I saw enough of mine in there to respond.

    “in the reality of the movie she decides she likes it and stops fighting. That’s why it’s not cool, though.”

    That’s not the reason I gave that scene a let, regardless of how lame the comedy was at this point. I (like to) think that Chelios knew his boundaries with Eve and also knew that he wasn’t stepping over the line. She proved herself to be something of the exhibitionist in the sequel and, in an admittedly retrospective way, it could possibly be seen to vindicate his behaviour a touch.

    Leading up to the “infamous” school bus scene you saw nothing but Chev eating shit and humouring her and showing that she was an equal partner in their relationship.

    I guess I may just be seeing what I want to see and, in regards to real rape… of course I’m 100% against it and abhor the very idea of it.

    “But some movies I feel like the personalities of the filmatists comes through and in this case I don’t like what I perceive as their personalities. They rub me the wrong way.”

    Fair play, Vern. There are filmatists that give me that vibe too. I don’t wanna see GAMER because I think that may hurt these films for me. It’s a fine line I guess.

    @ Harker: Nice one mate….. I can’t remember what you said but I made a note. ;-P

    @ everyone else: Sorry for the smilie.

  50. @ Mr S.

    That was awesome… I too was of the belief that the knife never touched the flesh. Hitchcock was a notorious prankster. Pun almost too painful to mention.

    Thanks for the knowledge.

  51. Fuck I’d forgotten how much I hated that shit show with Colin Quinn. All the shrill talking points of a debate show with even less actual information or qualifications! Can’t believe that one didn’t last.

    I’m with you, Vern; even if it wasn’t explicitly a ‘rape’ scene, I still think its kind of ugly and mysogenistic… which is neither here nor there, except that the directors seem to think its a laugh riot, which is kind of what bugged me about the whole enterprise.

    Got no problem with a nihilistic belief in the worst in everyone, but if think just portraying that is funny in itself, can’t say I agree. However, the films have their moments.

  52. Lenny – yup, that Trouffaut interview kind of became the definative account of Hitch’s work, even though I think reading the whole thing you can catch the man mythologizing, selectively remembering, and, I think (and if I read you right, you do too) also yanking Trouffaut’s chain in a very low-key way.

  53. I don’t think it is a movie that is trying to tell young men how to behave on normal dates. The movie is all about what you would do in a situation where dignity gets in the way of survival. If it were a question of death or forcefucking your girlfriend and explaining it to her later, I’m sure all of you honourable talkbackers would gladly die. But Statham’s character in these movies is an asshole hitman with little if no morality. He’s not a guy we’re supposed to like, he’s one of those comedy characters who we watch to see them be awful.

    I guess my question is this: is it seeing it that makes the difference? Is actually seeing Jason Statham *rape* his girlfriend what makes it so offensive? Take the part in Borat where Borat talks about how he kept his retarded brother in a cage and his sister would taunt him and one day he broke out of the cage and raped her. Did you laugh at that because it was a story being told and not something you had to see?

    I also don’t find these Crank movies racist. I think there is a difference between racist characters, a racist movie, and characters who are negetive and played by somebody who isn’t a white man.

  54. I think we’re all forgetting that in the reality of the movie he would have died right there on the street if he didn’t have sex with Amy Smart. That’s why the audience laughs, because he’s doing something borderline horrible, but he has a very good reason to do so. He’s not just horny; he’s fighting for his life. I have personally watched the scene with two women, both of whom are kind of touchy about stuff like that, and they both laughed their asses off.

  55. The weird thing about the scene is that it really does look horrible, if you only see the pictures, without the sound. If I had to judge the scene just from that YouTube clip alone, I would be seriously offended by it, too!

    And P.S. Vern: Of course I didn’t mean to say that just looking sad during a rape doesn’t make it a rape, but within the context of the movie it takes away much of the impact. In that moment you don’t see an ugly rapist, but a man who grabs the last straw to save his life. I got no idea if this was mentioned in the script, but it was smart from Statham to play it that way.

  56. I guess my problem is partly how funny the filmatists obviously think it is and also partly that I saw numerous mentions of it (some of them by Harry) as being some kind of great erotic scene. But your points are all well taken. Let’s just agree not to try it at home. Also the shotgun up the guy’s ass, don’t do that one either.

  57. Vern, I wish I’d read that yesterday. I might not have a lawsuit on my hands. My filthy, filthy hands.

  58. i have such a hard time defending these movies, because the tactics these directors use are normally what i hate so much about recent hollywood action/horror films. though i did think this was a lot of fun, and i might even use the word cathartic.

    also, Patton’s score really aided the pacing. the guy knows dynamics. great musician.

  59. I reviewed this and the first film a little while ago; my final thoughts on the film were pretty similar to yours, condensed to two and a half paragraphs. I was considering just going with “shit sandwich” for this one, but decided against it. In any case, jesus god was this movie terrible. The first film I’m actually beginning to enjoy, somewhat – but, man.

    Also, I think the point of the ‘rape scene’ in the first film was exactly what you were all getting at – it was poking fun at that convention, y’see.

  60. “I’m pretty surprised at the aloof attitudes showing up on here about this film.”

    That’s because the reviewers here are overly intellectual, politically correct manginas unable to appreciate a film that rejects their pussywhipped values.

  61. Mr. S, I said ENTER Janet Leigh. The knife barely glances her stomach, yet people back in the day swore that they saw her get stabbed.

  62. Well shit. Why does this thread keep turning into an argument over the extent of penetration?

  63. JB – Not buying it. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but around here we mainly sit around writing about Dolph Lundgren and Charles Bronson and shit all day. Some (not all of us) didn’t think Crank was very good, for various reasons that have been listed in detail. You disagree so that means we’re “pussywhipped”?

    We’ve made some pretty detailed arguments against and for the movie. I think you can do better than that. It’s kind of a dick move to broadly insult everybody and bring nothing to the table.

    Also what the fuck is a mangina. I don’t watch cartoons.

    I love your music though.

  64. I believe “Mangina” might be a Godzilla baddie. The one that looked like a turtle?

  65. Vern,

    Have you ever seen Miike’s DEAD OR ALIVE (1999)?

    Seems like it’s a huge influence on the CRANK-ers — and I appreciate the fact that they want bring that kind of energy into US cinemas. However, they could learn a lesson in pacing from Miike. He gives you a delirious 10-minute speed rush to start the film plus an absolutely bonkers ending, but the middle section gets kind of reflective. You know, “our lives aren’t that different — cops and robbers are two sides of the same coin,” that kind of stuff. Of course, this being a Miike film, there is the odd animal porn and death-by-enema thrown in for flavor.

    Anyway, I recommend it. It’s a DTV film, which I know you appreciate, and Riki Takeuchi & Sho Aikawa are respectably badass.

    First post, BTW, but I’ve been reading the sight for a while – – love it. Keep strivin’.

  66. I think ultimately the thing that leads me to feel kind of ambivalent about these films is my inability to completely accept the “I can’t believe we got away with that” ethos.

    It just seems like so much of the stereotypes, so much of the misogyny, so much of the excess in these movies is just there because these guys get a kick out of pushing things way farther than most people would. I mean, that’s kind of the whole joke — “haha, that’s so wrong! Can you believe we’re getting away with this!?” Its not like the situations themselves are really funny or clever or anything. The only thing they’ve got going for them is their commitment to go in the exact opposite direction of good taste.

    Which becomes –to me, anyway — tiresome pretty quickly. The film is just defined completely by its desire to shock you, rather than being guided by something genuinely shocking. Its like Vern said when talking about SAW way back when… there are guys like Cronenberg who just have weird, shocking things rolling around in their head, and they just put them onscreen because that’s what they’ve got to say. Then, there are guys like the SAW dudes, “Demon” Dave DeFalco, and now these guys, who don’t really want to say anything particular, they just want to think of something that will shock you and then say it. They think its totally rad to get away with it.

    But then, there’s the awkward fact that they… did…get away with it. In fact, nobody tried to stop them. It turns out, shocking is a pretty easy sell these days. People get exposed to so much craziness that anything you can show them that they might not have seen before is going to find some takers. Roger Ebert may get a little upset about how mean something is (not in this case, though) but come on, nobody’s trying to get the film banned or close down the studio. Worst case scenario, some far left or far right loudmouth uses your film as an excuse to go on TV and promote his or her new book, but come on, if they represent “the man” then I ought to feel just as oppressed every time I eat a burger or give money to a homeless guy. Everyone these days feels like you can say pretty much whatever you want, they may not go see your movie but you’re free to try to get people to see it if you want. It’s a false idea of outsidership which gets milked for all its worth by people whose only claim to being important is that they put all their effort into thinking of something that would really piss someone off, and then saying it. I mean, nice job, man. But again, no one really tried to stop you, did they? The most they ever ask is that you make partaking in your art a voluntary endevouer. So you didn’t really get away with anything so much as intentionally cross a line that most people choose not to unless they have something worthwhile to say (which of course, you don’t. Its just about crossing the line).* Its pretty easy to upset some people if you really set your mind to it, but then, what the heck was the point?

    Most of us get through this ungainly stage when we’re about 13 or so (and I should know; I played in a Danzig cover band), but some folks seem to never tire of it — they just need to keep thinking of new ways to go farther than the last guy. And since it’ll always be easy to shock people with cruelty, violence, religion, racism, and misogyny, and there’s ALWAYS more horrendous things you can do with those categories (and combinations thereof), its doesn’t take much ingenuity to figure out how to one-up the last try. Which is fine, you know; I mean, its not like I’m going to try to legislate against further CRANK movies. But rebelling against nothing is pretty meaningless to me. I was going to write that you can’t really shock me anymore, but hell, I’m sure some day I’ll watch some movie where a guy rapes his teenage daughter while force feeding her feces, and I’ll be genuinely disgusted and shocked and say as much and these guys will high five each other over their big win. But they still won’t have anything interesting to say.

    Sorry to beat a dead horse, but Ive been thinking about these films and I guess I just had to put it out there before this comment section slips away into the abyss of page 2. And of course, this whole thing is meant to be a more general statement than specifically about CRANK, which for all intents and purposes is pretty tame and does actually feature more imagination than most of the things I’m talking about, although when its really trying to shock you it tends to be at its most predictable.

    * of course, sometimes just crossing the line is saying something in an of itself, but that’s waaaay rarer than most guys who do it would like to think. We’re not all Lenny Bruce, guys. Mostly we’re just Lisa Lampinelli.

  67. Mr. S – I think why those guys’ particular “pushing” works for me because it comes off to me as an anarchistic sense of humor inbetween the hyperbolic action and explosions. Yes that “pushing” mentality is I suppose juvenile, but its sorta naturally infectious to a point.

    Remember that SOUTH PARK episode from some years back with the teacher/student sex affair…and the student was like in Kindergarden? That mentality which you don’t like, seems to define for better or for worse Parker/Stone.

    I guess its like Troma, which I’ll bring up again.

    Their “comedy” is mostly based off tasteless jokes, gory sequences, and gratituous nudity…and you know it worked like a charm on TOXIC AVENGER. I mean who didn’t laugh when the crook gets whacked by his own severed arm…or that the same Mexican restaurant just happened to have samurai swords on the wall?

    Of course, thats one goodie out of dozens and dozens of…well, not so goodies. But it worked with ole Toxie the first time around. The sequels? Not really.

  68. Mr M — I think what turns me off about the anarchic humor in these is that its so predictable. Stereotypes are just such a cop-out way to piss off people and claim you’re different. The violence in the CRANK films is pretty fun and unique, but their attempts to be un-PC are just kind of easy and tired (not to mention they kill any fun by seeming sort of mean and petty).

    South Park works because when it offends it’s in the name of biting satire, and they consistently manage to create offensive stuff that’s truly surprising and even imaginative. OK, sometimes they don’t, but usually then I have the same problem with them that I do for everyone else.).

    TROMA also succeeds when they get genuinely creative. TOXIC AVENGER is just wonderfully bizarre and although it is gratuitous too, its gratuitous in completely crazy ways which make it unique and charming. And of course, most Troma doesn’t recapture that sense of weirdo fun and is pretty unwatchable. Also, Troma films aren’t being bankrolled and promoted by major Hollywood studios with bankable stars, so its a little easier for me to buy them as legitimate outsiders.

    I mean, I think we can all take a great deal of pleasure in the gratuitous and the shocking — but to me, content is the important thing, not shock value. If you’ve got something great but shocking to say, say it loud and proud (after all, as we’ve seen, no one is really going to stop you). If you just want to say something shocking, then you’re not really saying anything, are you? And of course, I think its worth remembering that there’s a reason PC speech exists. I don’t really think you’re a hero sticking up for free speech by fearlessly depicting stereotypes on screen. In fact, a lot of the free speech high ground taken by these types seems suspiciously like big shot white guys who just aren’t used to being told they’re acting like assholes. Again, no one’s going to stop you from putting Skidz and Mudflap in your movie, but maybe you ought to consider the reasons most people DON’T do that – because you do it enough and its kind of demeaning to people and makes their lives worse. So who are you really sticking it to by breaking the taboo? Just because you have freedom of speech doesn’t necessarily make you a hero for saying everything you think all the time, which is the lesson not learned by the likes of John Crank.

  69. Wait, when did I say anything about the stereotypes in Crank 2? I’ve managed to stay out of this one. Is this like when my mom accidentally called me by my brother’s name?

  70. Shit. I was so overwhelmed by thought I forgot who I was talking to. Sorry RRA & Mr M. Yet another life ruined by Neveldine/Taylor.

  71. I’m sure life will go on, Mr. S. Although, for the record, I’m about as big a Crank fan as you can find. I love those stupid movies. I can understand why they might rub you the wrong way, though.

  72. I’m actualy surprised this wasn’t your cup of tea Vern. I thought the original Crank was like a huge fuckin breath of the freshest air the action genre had seen in a long time. We didn’t know where the movie was going to go, one mad setpiece after another, breathtaking stunts, inventive camera work, cracking dialogue, a demented plot and a most importantly a film that didn’t pander to the PC crowd. Statham cemented himself (if the Transporter films hadn’t already) as an action star, so much so that Stallone signed him for The Expendables. Sinfully, I haven’t seen the sequal due to a limited cinema run in the UK but rest assured I’ll be purchasing the DVD this week.
    I actually cannot wait to see it. Mmmm….that doesn’t happen to often with action films these days.

  73. Has anyone seen the Gary Daniels film “Rage” that the “Crank” films might just have “borrowed” their concept from?

  74. Brief thoughts on “Gamer,” which I’ll probably get around to writing about proper sooner or later.

    It’s better than Crank 2. That much is certain. Visually, it’s garishly bland – too much high contrast, everywhere. It looks like a bad TV commercial from the late nineties, most of the time. There’s a shot early on where Butler’s character is talking to John Leguizamo in the desert prison, and it almost looked like Leguizamo’s skin was about to start glowing. However, there are some genuinely nice shots, sprinkled here and there. They’ve learned to shoot a kind-of well done chase sequence that is – yes, I called it – hampered by the film’s glum color palette. And, the dance number may be the best scene in the film – although, it’s interrupted by something, I don’t know what it was. Just a weird series of flashy images with loud noises in the background for a second or two that are never mentioned again.

    The first twenty minutes of the film are like that, however. A bunch of stuff is thrown at the screen, and the filmmakers seem to expect us to assemble it into a coherent whole. Luckily, it begins to make more sense as the film goes on, but not by much. Obviously, it’s ultra-conventional. Death Race in a videogame, and so on. Nothing much interesting is done with it – there’s an attempt at…some kind of social satire, but it’s both too fleeting and too easy. The directors take great joy in showing us close-ups of sweaty, naked fat people. I do not share their enthusiasm, and as it didn’t really come out to anything, I have resolved to track them down, punch them both in the face, and get my money back.

    Michael C. Hall steals the film in the same way that Joan Allen stole Death Race, last year.

  75. Fun fact, the two directors have a cameo in the film. They were the really unfunny gay couple he stole the shock collar from. So yeah, they’re douches.

  76. That wasn’t them. That was the lead singer of Tool and the lead singer of some other band.

  77. Actually, I stand corrected. The other guy is a member of Nine Inch Nails.

  78. I recently saw it and was slightly disappointed by it. The survivor-gimmick in this movie barely works (apparently you have to do more exciting things when you need adrenaline than electricity) and the craziness not just felt unbelievable forced this time (Part 1 felt more like the writers sat down and thought: “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool, if…”, but here it felt like: “Nonono, this is not crazy enough, we MUST come up with something crazier”) it also resulted in a Tarantino-syndrome (minus the overlong dialogue), where the whole movie was stuffed with ideas that are at first sight pretty original and hilarious, but at second sight kinda lame, totally unnecessary and not very helpful for the flow of the movie. Or does anyone think that the Talkshow flashback worked? Or the gag with the head of the villain from the last movie? Or the McGuffin with the ice box? Or the twin with tourette? (But I gotta admit that I approve on the Godzilla scene. That was too fucked up to not like it.)

  79. I absolutely love these two movies because of how over the top they are. I know that the first one was over the top in terms of camera shots, editing and action, but the second one pushed things a little further that I never thought that it would top the first one (I did watch “Shoot ‘Em Up” and “Wanted” and while those two are over the top, I don’t know how the ridiculousness can measure to the second “Crank” movie). Unlike the first movie, I didn’t get a chance to see this in theaters even though I wanted to. I ended up watching it by renting it on Redbox and I remember being shocked at a lot of scenes like the silicone leaking or the slicing of the nipples (Both the nipple scene and Bai Ling hitting a guy in the “happy area” with a bicycle have me turning my head when I watch them).

    I also listened to the commentary for “Crank: High Voltage” and I got a few laughs from Neveldine and Taylor about the making of the movie and some of their comments were hilarious. Also, I own both movies on Blu Ray and there is the “Crank’d Out” mode in which you not only get commentary but you have some of the actors on the screen explaining stuff while the movie is showing on the side.

    I have been hearing rumors about a third one coming out. The question in my mind is how will they top the ridiculousness of the second one. If it does happen, we shall see.

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