Crank Is 15 Years Old And It’s Still F*cking Ridiculous
It’s been 15 years since we all took a hit of Jason Statham’s Crank; an outrageous, exhilarating actioner soaked in poor taste.
Methamphetamine can make its users feel alert, awake, confused, aggressive, even aroused. In 2006, with the drug’s slang for a title, Neveldine/Taylor (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) clearly sought to crystallise its effects in reel life. A decade-and-a-half later, its endorphins haven’t diluted whatsoever.
That’s because Crank is timeless in a very specific way; its unhinged irreverence, from shocking violence to -ist and -phobic gags, still feels completely potent and, crucially, not intended to harm. It’s all one big ludicrous, grimy provocation that proudly hopscotches along the line of what’s acceptable.
We open on an arcade title card – in case it doesn’t become obvious, it’s all like a video game – and that flatlining ringtone. Something is wrong with Chev Chelios (Statham), a hitman who’s made an unfortunate enemy of a crime syndicate that contracted him to kill a Triads leader.
He stumbles over to a staticky TV with a DVD labelled, ‘F*ck you.’ Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) appears with the most ferally flared nostrils in modern cinema. He reveals Chev has been poisoned with some ‘high-tech, synthetic, Chinese bullsh*t’ in his sleep. He even says it’s Shakespearean.
Via the candid expertise of Doc Miles (a vastly underrated Dwight Yoakam), Chev quickly learns that if he slows down and doesn’t keep a constant current of adrenaline, he’ll pass out and die.
This gambit is the excuse for all-out, immediate carnage: he goes on a high-speed chase through a shopping mall; antagonises Black people in a bar after snorting cocaine off the floor; robs a store for all its Red Bull and energy supplements; and ‘juices’ himself with a defibrillator before injecting a whole dose of epinephrine, giving him a ‘steel hard-on… that’s the stimulation of your blood vessels. Your urinary sphincter’s tight as a knot right now. You couldn’t p*ss to save your life,’ the doc tells him.
That’s a small smattering of the movie’s bizarre, hilariously violent mayhem, which feels aligned with Chev’s own mission: it simply never stops, and any brief pauses are punctuated by jitters and a need to move.
It’s anything but clean; you feel like you’re being thrown around Los Angeles with Adam Biddle’s broadly handheld, Jackass-esque cinematography, plus Neveldine/Taylor’s gonzo pace and sprinkling of nifty visuals, like the reflection of subtitles and a wing mirror showing the other end of a phone call.
Spoilers for the ending of Crank:
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge some moments probably going too far: an Al-Qaeda joke with a taxi driver doesn’t land satirically; and yes, we laughed at Amy Smart’s Chinatown sex scene in 2006, and it helped the movie’s notoriety, but the scene starts off with her fighting Chev off and screaming no, before submitting and wildly moaning… yikes.
The ending is the pièce de résistance of the whole venture, especially since Statham did all of his own stunts: Chev and Ricky fight in a helicopter 3,000ft high, before falling to Earth. On the off chance you’re reading this as an outsider, it’s a comedown worth holding off for. ‘Wish I’d taken more time to stop and smell the roses so to speak. Guess it’s too late for that now. You’re the greatest, baby.’
Crank diehards will stand by the ‘requel’, High Voltage – a film I enjoyed, for the record – but its trippy carnage is a step beyond the furious watchability of the original. It’s a quintessential Stath experience, and a genuine highlight of 2000s action – if only for how surreal it is.
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