‘Crank’ features plenty of heart-stopping action
I think actor Jason Statham is one of the most underrated guys working today. Oh, sure, he doesn’t have the looks of a Tom Cruise (then again, he doesn’t have the baggage, either), but he is consistent at what he does.
Who could forget his silent charm as Handsome Rob, driver par excellent in “The Italian Job” with Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron, or more recently in “The Transporter” and its sequel? For a while there, he was getting typecast as one of the best getaway drivers in the business, which ain’t bad considering all of the cool cars you get to drive. Sweet.
This time out, though, we finally get to see Statham in a character outside of a motor vehicle and more personal. OK, I’m just kidding – he really is typecast as yet another fast driver. Where was Tracy Chapman? In his latest outing, “Crank,” Statham is not so charming, but I’ll take a character filled with depth over charm any day.
Not to say that “Crank” doesn’t have some killer chase scenes. It does. The film has not one but two directors in the driver’s seat: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who also share writing credits. Like a well-oiled machine, these two filmmakers (in their debut, I might add) keep the movie’s adrenaline-fueled pace in high gear, which is good, since some of the story stalls uphill, but not enough where you have to call Triple A. The movie may sound familiar, with its plot of seeking revenge on those who did him wrong, but I enjoyed the movie as an escapist release from real-world violence – and it was air-conditioned, too, so a much better experience than the Gaza Strip.
Statham’s character could come from the underbelly of one of his cars. Not someone you would normally find yourself rooting for, but when you consider that he is actually one of the nicer guys compared to those around him, you want him to act out his wrath. OK, maybe just me, but the method by which he plots out the rest of his future is pretty dramatic. Here he plays Chev Chelios, yet another cog in the seedy underworld of Los Angeles. Sometimes you have to ask yourself if Los Angeles is ever anything but seedy, always being depicted as a place of horror in the future, what with its acid rain and 24-hour darkness because of the pollution. Oh, wait, I’m sounding like Al Gore again. Sorry.
Here we see him waking up one morning and something is not quite right. Was it something he drank the night before? Close. Some guys seedier than him don’t appreciate his “art,” so his time is numbered. He has been injected with a poison that causes his heart rate to slow dramatically to the point that if he can’t keep it going (his ticker) then he’ll die. In a weird way, I kept thinking of the movie “Speed,” in which the bus would blow up if it dropped below 50 mph. Sort of the same thing here. What does one have to do to keep one’s heart rate up? Whoa! I was surprised, too – the title of this picture might serve as a clue for you.
In the meantime, Chev has made it his sole mission to seek out those who did this to him, starting with Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). It must be a thrill playing the bad guys, because you get to overact, unless it was intentional. Other actors worth mentioning are Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez and killer character Dwight Yoakam. Who knew this country crooner would develop a second career in this field? At least the acting at times doesn’t interfere with the rest of the movie’s action sequences. It’s not their fault, though. Just a few bumps in the road every now and then. Look for a few cool cameos that will leave you scratching your head.
Speaking of, how much time does one have until their heart winds down and they don’t get to kill off all of the villains in time? This is where it gets a little clogged, like his arteries. The story needs a transplant after the midway point, but things start to flow again uninhibited toward Act Three. I liked the camera work, although the cameras were jerking around so hard I felt like the cinematographer must have been borrowing from “The Blair Witch Project.”
The idea that one has a set time to live and must chase down an antidote is nothing new to the film industry, but Stratham’s kinetic pace at hunting down his oppressors is pretty riveting at times. Most of the movie is spent in familiar territory, for both the film viewer and for our leading man: behind the wheel.
There’s some well choreographed moments between man and machine, due in part to the filmmakers. Although this is Neveldine’s first time out as writer/director, he is well known for his behind-the-scenes work as a first-class stuntman, having been both coordinator and stuntman himself in the movies “The Keys” (2002) and “The Siege” (1998). Co-director Brian Taylor is more the visual artist of the two, having created the special effects for such films as “Biker Boyz” (2003) and “The Mothman Prophecies (2002). If ever the expression “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” made any sense, it sure does here for this film.
“Crank” won’t win any awards at the Oscars, but for a Labor Day weekend where you want to act out your road rage fantasies, this movie delivers. The best part is you won’t get arrested or have anyone try to kill you, either, in the process.
– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.
Keepin’ it Reel
Now playing: “Crank”
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam, Carlos Sanz, Reno Wilson, Edi Gathegi, Glenn Howerton and Keone Young
Directed by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use
Length: A crank’s pace of 87 minutes
Howie gives it: 3.5 out of 5 bagels