Re-Charged: 'Crank' Review
Adding to the age-old moniker that the best video game movies are not based on pre-existing property, Crank is a film that deserves its place as one of the true great video game movies.
Fearlessly written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (or as they’re known Neveldine/Taylor professionally), Crank marked their electrifying debut and made Jason Statham a certifiable action leading man in the tradition of Stallone or Schwarzenegger. The premise is brilliantly simple; I can only imagine the pitch meeting that Neveldine/Taylor had with Lionsgate. Hitman Chev Chelios (Statham) awakens after he let his target get away from him only to have been poisoned in his sleep. Not only that but unless he keeps his adrenaline to the max while finding an antidote he’ll die in an hour.
What follows is essentially Neveldine/Taylor relentlessly finding ways to keep the momentum going and giving their hero means to keep “charged up.” Everything from frenetic camera moves, action sequences that give new meaning to the term “stylized” and Statham’s own commitment to doing all of his own insane stunts (including a spectacular and death-defying one atop a helicopter near the finale) make Crank not only a great action thriller but also one that uses the conventions of video games and exploits them in thoroughly entertaining fashion.
Much like in a video game, the hero has to acquire power-ups, in this case, Chelios simply has to recharge himself. He also has a clear and linear objective (in Chelios’ case to find the antidote and keep his adrenaline going) and must follow that path but gets sidetracked along the way to battle enemies.
It’s clear that Neveldine/Taylor love video game conventions and they use them pitch perfectly level in Crank because they don’t have to adhere to any pre-existing request strictly; they can just use storytelling aspects of video games in their film. It’s 80 minutes of Chelios getting from point A to point B while finding ways to keep himself fully charged along the way; simple, efficient and utterly useful. To show that they even have an affection for video games, especially 8-bit ones, Neveldine/Taylor include a surprise after credits stinger that follows Chelios (in 8-bit form) recreating scenes from the film.
But Crank isn’t just a video game movie; it’s also a movie that combines classic noir tropes (right from the opening scene with Chelios awakening from a day where something bad was done to him), thriller elements, insanely pitch black humor and low budget grindhouse cinema exploitation. It's a modern day grindhouse film that, much like its classic predecessors of the genre, exploits violence, sex, and foul language. A self-aware film that knows how violent, R-rated and edgy it is; it knows it’s ridiculous, but that’s also the point that it explores. Crank’s highly stylized and over-the-top action sequences and fantastic set pieces make it one of the few action films that also aren’t afraid to use satire into the genre. It brings out as much of the genre as humanly possible to deconstruct it and exploit it.
If you’ve never experienced the wild adrenaline rush that is Crank, I highly recommend you do so. It is one incredible set piece after the other with a Jason Statham in original leading man form. Darkly hilarious, brutal and utterly irreverent, Crank is a throwback to the classic grindhouse pictures of old but with completely modern and kinetic sensibilities.