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Crank (** film, ** 1/2 rating)

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Jeremy Billones

Joined: 07 Aug 2006
Posts: 523
Location: Alexandria, VA

PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:38 pm    Post subject: Crank (** film, ** 1/2 rating) Reply with quote

As somebody once quipped, "If you like that sort of thing, it's the sort
of thing you'll like." They made exactly the movie they wanted to make,
and it's not a poorly done movie, so it seems rather unmutual of me to
pan it based on what it *could* have been. But since Arrogant and
Condescending are the watchword around here, I shall anyway :)

If you've missed the ads, the film follows Chev Chelios (Jason Statham),
a hitman who awakens to discover that he has been poisoned. The
only thing that will keep him alive is a constantly high level of adrenaline.
So he goes from scene to scene, chasing down his killers while engaging
in escalating levels of mayhem to keep his blood flowing.

The acting isn't Shakespearean, but nobody appears to be related to
the producers either. Statham hits his various marks of angry,
frustrated, and even at a point or two exasperated with his girlfriend.
The film doesn't give him the opportunity for comedy that The Transporter
did -- he mostly runs and yells. Amy Smart has the thankless role of
the scatterbrained girlfriend. She only gets one line that matters, but
she delivers it well. The rest of the criminals hit their one note.

The duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have no other writing or
directing credits to their name at IMDB. The directing is worth remarking
on. It is very much "MTV style", with rapid cuts within a scene, the
occasional blipvert of images for effect, and frequent changes in
cinematographic style. The intent is to bring the audience along for
the same ride Chelios is on: disoriented but full throttle. But it's not
*uncontrolled* chaos -- the composition of nearly every shot is excellent,
close in where detail is important or wide where context matters. In
particular, their use of (credited on-screen) Google Earth images to
quickly change scenes across Los Angeles is a briliant blend of classic
film trope and Gen Y sensibility. (Are we still on Gen Y? Are we on to
Gen Z yet?) Except for the chaos of the final shootout, I'm convinced
every single shot came out *exactly* how they intended it to look.
(Statham's final monologue was particularly noteworthy.)

Unfortunately, the first time writers weren't quite up to the same level
as the first time directors. The story is as spare a skeleton as you
might expect -- not quite Mission Impossible 2 levels (where the
action sequences were literally written first, then the plot written
to accomodate them), but clearly it is merely a device to put Statham
in a wide range of absurdly high-octane situations. But even with
that, there wasn't quite enough to fill the movie (which at 83 minutes
still has about 5 minutes they could have trimmed). In lieu of actual
plot or character development (*why* does any given character do
what they did), they use cliches and twists. There are two different
scenes where Chelios' boss (or a flunky) asks him to just find some quiet
place to go die and not make a fuss. It's not just a silly thing to ask --
it's the only point of the scene, and basically just a way to add more
running time to the film. And the internal pacing was a bit off, too;
some times Chelios can go for a while without a fix, while at another
point he goes from an electrical shock to a hard crash in seconds.

Die Hard was the film that it was because it took the time to add the
elements that make a good movie (plot, character, you know, *that* stuff)
to a film in a genre that usually goes without. Bruce Willis isn't really
a better actor than Steven Segal, or Jason Statham, or the Rock, but
his career was launced by Die Hard because despite the genre it
was a real movie. Crank isn't a real movie. But I don't see any
reason it couldn't have been.

An editorial comment. While I am a fan of several genres that use
shock, vulgarity and gore for effect, I myself am not entertained by
those excesses. There are severed limbs and a ton of profanity in
this film, as well as two penis jokes and one sex scene that are
completely gratuitous. (That is to say, even more gratitous than the
film in general.) Though, I don't think the second sex scene works
as well as it did unless there was a first one. And in the end, I guess
it's just fair to say that if you like those sorts of things, they'll be
the sort of things you like.
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