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Movie Review: Crank: High Voltage

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This review is written under the assumption that you've seen Crank, the crazy, over-the-top, loopy and insane action flick from unique filmmaking mad-men Mark Nevaldine and Brian Taylor. Although heck knows why you'd be interested in seeing the sequel, aptly subtitled High Voltage, if weren't interested in the original. It goes without saying that the following may be considered spoiler-filled.

The film is exactly what you'd expect: everything from the first film is present here, except turned up to eleven, sometimes in the films favour, sometimes very much not. This is definitely a case of the unexpected popularity of a balls-out movie having caused the makers to ramp everything up pretty much for the sake of it, however purely entertaining that may be.

Only the makers of the first film could possibly have come up with a way to continue on the seemingly complete story. Adrenaline junkie (quite literally for the entire first film) Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) was last seen lying on the ground after falling thousands of feet from a helicopter above. One would assume he's a goner, dead, kaput. But oh no, reminiscent of the craziness seen beforehand, Chelios is amazingly still alive and scooped up off the ground by some bad guys in a black van. An unknown mob boss wants him alive, long enough to relieve him of his various organs, starting with his heart, which they replace with a temporary artificial one.

But before they can take any more of him, Chelios breaks free of his mysterious hospital room, and heads out on a mission to find out who did this to him. However it's not long before he starts to feel very ill, and after calling his doctor friend (Dwight Yoakam) he realises he needs jolts of electricity every so often to keep his body alive and working, which he relentlessly tries to do long enough so that he can retrieve his stolen heart and get it put back in.

What do you expect from a sequel to the madness that was 2006's Crank? Guns? Violence? Blood? Strong language? Sex? Car chases? You'll not be surprised to find that it's a check on all those counts, and more. Everything you can think of in the way of over-the-top action, Crank: High Voltage has it in spades. It's hard to even comprehend that they managed to up the level of mayhem from the first film, which on its own was as adrenaline-filled and high octane as you could hope from a film of its type. And yet somehow they found a way. What you can't excuse writer/director Nevaldine and Taylor of is shyness about showing just exactly what they want to — short of Chelios turning green and into the Hulk, this sequel has it all.

However that is to the film's detriment quite often; although there are times when the ramping up of the over-the-top stuff is fun, it is a lot of the time just too much. With Crank, they had all of this insane stuff in there, but it always felt within the realm of possibility (well, except for the whole falling from a helicopter and surviving thing). But with High Voltage all of that stuff is taken not just one step further, but leaps and bounds. The body count is easily doubled, the strong language is increased heavily, and the film even goes out of its way for a good ten minutes to top the infamous Chinatown sex scene from the first film. Although the audience that the first film attracted will not only not mind the increase in pretty much every aspect but actually welcome it, it may be quite offensive and shocking to those who may accidentally wander into the wrong movie at the cinema.

What also hinders this sequel is the weakening to the temptation of trying to make it feel more like a straight movie, as opposed to just an experience as the first film was. By that I mean the inclusion of such things as an explanation to why Chelios is the way he is (by way of a flashback sequence to his childhood), more scenes involving people other than him, and trying to make us care about him, all of which add an unnecessary 15 minutes to the runtime. The adrenaline reliance because of the "Chinese poison" the first time around was at least quasi-believable within the world of the film, but it feels like they're stretching the idea with this sequel. I realise it's a brainless action flick that you're just supposed to go with it for the 90-odd minutes that it runs, but there's a difference between being over-the-top and just being ridiculous, and I'm sorry to say Crank: High Voltage leans more towards the latter more often than it should.

What comes across during High Voltage is the fact that it must have been a hell of a lot of fun to make this thing. Statham has said its the most fun he's ever had making a movie, and his diving in head first portrayal as the maniacal, relentless Chev Chelios is just as entertaining as it was the first time. If nothing else, both of these Crank movies are great opportunities to see the Transporter himself go all-out in ways those movies' age ratings just wouldn't let him.

Nevaldine and Taylor realise that the film they made a couple of years ago is a fan-favourite, one which is rewatched over and over by action junkies everywhere. And so they play to their fans; there are plenty of tie-ins here which will make fans smile from ear to ear because of sheer recognition — from re-appearances and mentions of past characters, to details which were seemingly unimportant in the first film somehow becoming oh so important in this one. Kudos goes to the filmmaking team for not forgetting those fans who, let's face it, have made them as successful as they are today.

It may be missing the point to question some of the completely ridiculous things that happen but some of them are so out there that it's almost unavoidable. How would the fact that Chelios needs electricity not kill him dead with the thousands of volts he receives with every shock, to bring up just one quite obvious pondering? I doubt Nevaldine and Taylor had any of this and any of the others doezens of questions in mind, much less actually care about them. It's clear they just wanna cause as much mayhem within the film's runtime as humanly possible.

What more can be said about Crank: High Voltage? Not much that hasn't already been said by myself or others. As the name may suggest, this ain't gonna be a contender for any Oscars come next year, not unless they introduce "Most Over-The-Top Action Scenes." And that is exactly what the folk who will queue up to see this are after: some balls-to-the-wall action, disregard for logic or believability, strong language and gunplay a-plenty. It's indeed a lot of fun, even if it, at times, is a movie which wears a little thin. Pandering to those wanted aspects relentlessly, and at an increased level from the first film, is what ultimately and fundamentally holds the film back — sometimes there is such a thing as "too ridiculous". Or is there?

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About Ross Miller

  • I didn’t enjoy the first Crank much, and was somewhat surprised to find there was enough demand to make a sequel. Shoot ‘Em Up, War, and Crank made for some of the most disappointing “action” movies I’ve seen in the last few years, enough so that Stealth looked halfway decent by comparison. The Transporter flicks are varying degrees of okay, and Statham is capable of good work; I just wish he ended up on more interesting projects more often. Either way, I guess this is better than him working with Uwe Boll again.

  • teh loat

    “sometimes there is such a thing as “too ridiculous”. Or is there?”

    There is not. I laughed the entire journey home after watching this and would pay more money to see a Crank 3.