Crank’s premise might not be original — 1950 noir D.O.A. gave Edmond O’Brien a week to hunt down the villains who have poisoned him — but it gives the idea such punch and urgency that it feels entirely fresh. The pedal is on the metal right from the off, with Jason Statham’s recently retired hit man, the awesomely named Chev Chelios, learning that a deadly Chinese toxin is pumping through his veins. If he doesn’t keep upping his adrenaline, his heart will freeze; from that point on, there’s barely a moment devoid of action until the final bone-crunching stunt 87 minutes later.
Of course, it’s essentially Speed with a bald Brit instead of a bus. But Statham, who has long deserved a decent vehicle, is perfect for the role. While a bigger star might have queried the story’s more extreme aspects, the likeably down-to-earth Transporter star rolls with the punches, no matter how ludicrous. And ludicrous is the word. Chelios starts off by snorting coke off the floor of a public toilet and chugging on Red Bull; soon he’s running around in a surgical gown with his arse visible and a hard-on. There’s also a car chase with a deliriously outrageous edge that we won’t give away, except to say: Hugh Grant.
As with Speed, any acting deficiencies are rendered irrevelevant by Crank’s ingenuity and relentless pace. Kudos to the film’s two debuting writer-directors, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. One’s a former stuntman, the other a visual effects expert — combining their skills, they have crafted a (literally) high-adrenaline popcorn flick that doesn’t skimp on either cool visuals or genuinely painful-looking action. Sometimes the twitchy camerawork goes a little too far, but there’s plenty of impressive, David Fincher-style stuff — witness Chelios making a cell-phone call in his car and the person on the other end showing up in his rear-view mirror, or the repeated crash-zooms through his body and onto his struggling heart, each of which prompts another lunatic mission.
There’s little in the way of character development or meaningful dialogue, but that’s kind of the point. You have to admire an action flick that sticks so determinedly to its blazing guns, coming off like a bravura adaptation of a video-game which has yet to be made. It won’t be to everybody’s taste, but with a deliciously sick sense of humour and a refreshingly mean streak, Crank at least has the courage to carry its convictions through to the bloody end.