Friday, September 17, 2010

"Crank: High Voltage" (2009)

Starring Jason Statham, Amy Smart and Dwight Yoakam
Written and directed by Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine

I don't think I've ever seen a movie quite so, well, ridonkulous.  Jason Statham returns as Chev Chelios, a badass on a mission.  At the end of the first film, in which he'd been injected with a deadly poison and had to keep giving himself adrenaline boosts to keep his heart pumping, Chev plummeted out of a helicopter to the street below.  "Crank: High Voltage" begins in the same manner, with Chev slamming hard down onto a car and bouncing to the street, seemingly dead.  His body is picked up, tossed in the back of a van, and driven to a backroom Yakuza hospital where Asian gangsters plan to remove his vital organs (starting with his heart) for transplants into their powerful leaders.

When Chev is told that the next part to be removed is his... manhood... he manages to break free and discovers his new predicament: his heart has been replaced with an artificial one, and the battery is running down.  In order to keep the artificial heart pumping, he must continually give it boosts of electricity, from whatever source he can find.  So Chev takes off on a new mission to recover his heart from the evil gangsters that have stolen it.  Along the way he'll meet some colorful allies and more than a few gangs all trying to take him and each other down.

"Crank: High Voltage," as I said, is completely and utterly ridonkulous from start to finish.  The recap of the first film, for example, is done with pixel art set to heavy rock/techno music.  At various points in the film, subtitle dialogue will show up all over the screen in crazy fonts and effects.  But the real lunacy is the things Chev does in order to keep himself juiced.  Whether it's hooking his nipples up to car batteries or dry-humping old ladies to create static charges, Chev will do any and everything to get a jolt.

And the movie is totally non-stop, as well.  There are no quiet moments in "High Voltage" - the movie starts and never stops.  Hard, thumping, grungy rock and techno are laid over every scene, which always includes fistfights, chases, gunfights, car crashes... and you're never more than a few moments from plenty of nude females.  In fact, the number of naked breasts in this movie might set some kind of record.  And by the time the army of gun-toting strippers arrives for the second time, my jaw was on the floor.  I simply couldn't believe that every scene managed to top the previous one in sheer, ballsy absurdity.  Racial stereotypes fly fast and hard, just as fast and hard as any of the vicious martial arts moves Statham employs.

In terms of character, Statham is... well, Statham.  The man has real presence and excellent comedic timing, but let's face it - his range is limited.  But considering everything that's going on in "High Voltage," I'm not sure I can fault anyone for not finding any real, solid emotional cores to their characters.  Even Amy Smart as Chev's girlfriend, Eve, who has the only thing that even comes close to some kind of emotional arc, is mostly just there to look extremely hot.  Like in the first film, Chev and Eve engage in graphic, public sexual escapades.  This time, it seems to go on forever, in a variety of hilarious poses while the crowd cheers them on.

The movie eventually even ventures beyond even the wacky hijinks and into the realm of the surreal when Chev finally catches up to the man he's been chasing for the last 80 minutes and the two engage in a bizarre Japanese monster movie fight.  It's impossible to describe; it's the kind of sheer lunacy you just have to experience for yourself.

"High Voltage" is jaw-dropping insanity from start to finish.  If you can handle the fact that the characters are actually caricatures and that the plot is essentially structured looser than a bad videogame... if you can lose yourself in the bizarre, absurdly over-the-top goings on, you'll have a good time with "Crank: High Voltage."  If you're expecting any kind of seriousness whatsoever, move along - nothing to see here.  I don't think I would watch it again, since I'm fairly sure most of my enjoyment of it came from the shock value and unpredictability on display.  Eventually I got into a groove of "What could they possibly do next?"  A second viewing would probably  not be nearly as fun.