Hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) fell from a helicopter and died – except he didn’t because of his indestructible heart. But now that’s been replaced with an electric model to keep him going while they harvest his other organs for transplant. Chelios has to go on the hunt for the missing pump, while keeping himself going with regular electric shocks.
“Morally bankrupt” doesn’t come close. This is a film that replaces plot with gratuitous violence, character with gratuitous sex / nudity, and theme with a stripper getting her implants punctured in a gunfight. There’s wince-inducing self-harm, and it may contain scenes of mild peril. Thank god it’s also endlessly entertaining and one of the funniest films of the year.
The action – a term we use advisedly – picks up exactly where the first film left off, with our hero Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) smashing to earth in an apparently lifeless heap. We see him scraped off the pavement with a snow shovel and bundled into a van, thence to have his heart removed and replaced with an electrical model not designed for heavy use. So for him to, say, race through LA, have public sex on a racetrack, slam bad guys through walls or stick oiled shotguns in places they really shouldn’t be stuck, he’s going to need regular electric shocks to keep him going. Cue Statham juicing himself up with jump leads, grabbing power cables with both hands and in extremis rubbing himself up against polyester-sporting little old ladies.
In short, it’s hard to see where the action genre goes from this franchise, with demented writer-directors Neveldine and Taylor cranking volume, pace and the power lines up to 11. For all Michael Bay’s rust-coloured sunsets and giant robots, even he has always stopped short of having a character slice his own nipples off, or reanimating a severed head. It’s testament to the absurdity of this franchise that a dreamlike sequence where a papier-mache headed, Godzilla-sized Statham beats up a bad guy in a model city seems like one of the film’s more realistic moments.
But Crank knows its own limitations, using John de Lancie’s newsreader for a couple of wry asides and keeping tongue firmly in cheek. Statham’s relentless deadpannery and Cockerney rhyming slang (“Where the fuck is my strawberry tart?”) provide a solid focus, with Amy Smart’s dim-bulb girlfriend once again offering supporting laughs. Neveldine and Taylor slip up with some supporting characters – Bai Ling’s Ria is this film’s JarJar, Corey Haim is largely pointless and a Chelios childhood flashback suffers from appalling accent work – and rely too heavily on casual racism and the entertainment power of boobies, but when they focus on mayhem they’re unbeatable.
Proof that you can make good movies based on video games, as long as you don’t bother making a video game first. Juice us up for Crank 3D.