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Crank High Voltage


It’s strange when a film as seemingly thoughtless as Crank 2 inspires so much thought. For someone who hasn’t seen anything from the franchise they probably appear to be big dumb action movies, with Jason Statham put in increasing situations of ridiculousness which he gets out of in increasingly violent ways, however I think there might be more to them than that. Any film which leads to me sitting in a pub afterwards trying to work out what genre I would put it into (Experimental Extreme Arthouse Exploitation was the best my slightly inebriated brain could come up with) is either doing something right or quite wrong.

To start out, Crank 2 continues in the same vein as the first – Jason Statham, as Chev ‘Fuck you’ Chelios, has his heart switched for an artificial one (in the last film he was poisoned) and must zap himself with electricity to keep the battery charged (previously he had to keep his heart rate high to stop the poison from killing him) while searching for his real heart (instead of looking for a cure). That’s about it. It’s a rather good premise for a dumb action movie, in my opinion, and simply as a dumb action movie it succeeds, but there is another way to look at it – as a self aware parody of dumb action movies, including itself.

From beginning to end the film is entirely morally objectionable. It is offensive to every group of people seen in the film – women, the chinese, people with tourettes, hispanic people…the list goes on – and everything that happens does so seemingly to shock, with porn star strikes, anally inserted shotguns, strippers with exploding boobs, the now obligatory public shagging and more. However, everything is pushed beyond the normal limits of this kind of film and combined with a wide streak of surrealism that permeates the aftermaths of Chelios’s increasingly large electric shocks it turns into something much more than it at first seems.

It’s stylish, with the look and feel combining elements of eastern extreme cinema with the canonical western action movie. Filmed in high contrast with closeup hand held cameras and wide lenses it is a sensory assault well suited for viewing in the cinema. The story sort-of holds together, as much as this level of ridiculousness can, and surprisingly does require the viewer to have seen the first film to get the most out of it. However even with prior knowledge you’ll probably spend most of the film looking confused. It’s funny on a number of levels, with stupid humour mixed with vaguely complicated self-referential and general parody, with a small pile of cameos to spot, from the obvious to the random, many of them being humorous specifically due to the cameoing person. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed myself, although felt guilty every time I grinned. Which was a lot.

In the end my opinion of the film comes down to how well I think it fulfilled its intention. If it was just meant to be a silly action movie then it succeeded but is wholly morally objectionable. However, if it was meant to be a film that says “Look at me! Look at how ridiculous this all is! Can we actually get any more offensive?!” then it succeeds and the objectionableness is seemingly blunted by that awareness. I’m still trying to work out why it becomes more acceptable to me if I think, as I do, that it was all intentional, but in the meantime I am very tempted to go and see it again.

It almost seems to be a companion piece to Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games’ (neither version of which I have yet managed to see) – in those the violent premise hides a stern looking Haneke pointing at the audience saying ‘This is your fault. If you were not watching then these horrible things would not happen. You are complicit. You are to blame”. In Crank 2 the filmmakers are saying pretty much the same, but they’re grinning as they do.

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