Crank (2006) — A weirdly brilliant action romp

“Urinary sphincter? Check!”

Flinthart’s rating: 9.5 out of 10ccs of epinephrine… and yeah, that’s an in-joke.

Flinthart’s review: Ladies, gents, and beings of any and all other persuasions. Sometime back in the mid-noughties, while I was hanging out with a bunch of film nerd reprobates of a Friday night in Launceston, I saw a film that absolutely blew. My. Tiny. Mind. And I’m gonna tell you about it now because even seventeen years after its initial cinematic release, Crank is a wholly remarkable work of utter filmic genius. I’ve seen it at least a half dozen times, and every time I wind up giggling helplessly as the tale unfolds on the screen before me.

Now first, let me say this: Crank is not a film for the kiddies. It’s a grown-up film. There’s lots of swearing, a great deal of occasionally graphic violence, a few boobs, and two highly amusing (albeit not particularly graphic or revealing) sex sequences. But I have to stress that every single element I just listed is completely necessary for the film to work as it does.

What makes Crank so astonishingly brilliant? Well, let me ask you a question: What’s the most annoying thing about action movies?

Yeah. Go on. Scratch your head for a moment. But the answer’s obvious: It’s all the dull, tediously scripted crap in between the action sequences. I mean – the whole goddam point of an action movie is the action, right? Fistfights, gunfights, car chases, explosions, cool stunts, snappy quips as bad guys get violently obliterated – that’s what you watch the film for, isn’t it? Except you can’t just have a film full of delicious action and violence, can you? You gotta have all that story shite in between to develop the narrative and motivate the characters… right?

Heh. Now go watch Crank.

Jason Statham plays Chev Chelios, an L.A. hitman working for the mob. In the opening sequence, Chelios wakes up with a brutal headache and finds a DVD in front of his TV. Playing it, he sees his enemy and rival Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) injecting him with some kind of evil “Chinese Shit.” Verona assures Chelios that he’s going to die within an hour.

Chelios flies into a rage and charges out to revenge himself on Verona, but he finds his heart slowing and his strength fading. Only a hit of adrenaline from a near-accident in the traffic brings him round, and Chelios quickly realizes that he needs to keep his heart-rate up if he’s going to live long enough to kill Verona. A call to his personal doctor (Dwight Yoakam) confirms it: Chelios has been poisoned with the “Beijing Cocktail,” and if he doesn’t keep the adrenaline flowing, he’s going to die.

…and the shenanigans begin in earnest.

Has there ever been a simpler, more elegant premise for an action film? I say never, and I promise you that between Chelios’ absolutely insane antics plus the frenetic, kinetic directorial style delivered by writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, there’s not a minute of this film that needs to be cut. Chelios rampages across Los Angeles through a landscape of criminal lowlifes, clueless tourists and hapless cops leaving a hilariously over-the-top trail of destruction as he struggles to keep his blood flowing and his heart pounding long enough to find and kill his mortal enemy.

I’m not going to spoil anything for you. I’m not going to break down the story and pull it apart into scenes… but I will add that the relationship between Chelios and his cute, daffy blonde girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) is both surprisingly wholesome, and… err… well, all right. Maybe just one scene? Seriously, if it had been up to me, I’d have just handed Taylor and Neveldine the ‘Best Original Script’ Oscar and told the rest of the has-beens in the competition to check themselves into some sort of aged-care facility until they fell into a coma and died. Because honestly: Have you ever heard of a film which managed to combine a simultaneous car-chase, gunfight, and blowjob sequence? And on top of that, to have the sequence make perfect sense in the context of the narrative?

Absolute bloody genius.

So how’s it end? Oh, violently and bloodily. The bad guys die. The good guys – no, wait, there aren’t any good guys. But the loose ends get nicely tied up, and Chelios’ character arc is properly completed, and the film takes no goddam prisoners right up to and including the very last frame.

If you like action movies and if you can handle a bit of gratuitous violence, you absolutely have to watch this movie. And hell, even if you’re just a film school tragic you should see Crank, because its unique answer to the great flaw of the action genre just has to be seen to be believed.

Didja notice?

  • Nope. Not this time. Just watch the film. Anything I listed here would only spoil one of the surprises. Grab some drinks and some popcorn, put this thing on the biggest screen you can find, turn the volume up to ‘Sudden Death’ and let Jason Statham blow you away.

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