Monday, January 4, 2010

Crank 2: High Voltage

It is a well-established fact that my taste is wildly suspect. I think I have wonderful taste, though the rest of the world at large does not always agree. That is all I am going to say on that matter, I would rather not explore it any deeper, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

So, of course I saw Crank (2006), and of course I watched the 2009 sequel, Crank 2: High Voltage. To be honest I didn’t so much watch Crank 2: High Voltage as I stared at it, mouth agape, trying to figure out if it was real or not. I’m still not sure what I saw. It could easily have been some sort of waking night terror. Maybe I should check my house for gas leaks. Maybe one of my many enemies slipped me a powerful hallucinogen.

To catch you up, Crank the First ends with when protagonist Chev Chelios (everyone’s favorite low-budget action hero Jason Statham) falls 20,000 feet from a helicopter and lands on the concrete in the middle of the street. Actually he lands on top of a car, takes a really high CGI bounce, and then lands on the concrete in the middle of the street. The last thing we see is his seemingly lifeless body blink one time, a clear indication of an impending sequel, and the credits roll over some janky neu-metal song. That is the end of the first movie.

Crank 2: High Voltage opens with a sort of reenactment of the fall from the helicopter, only it isn’t people we see. No, it is portrayed with Atari style video game graphics. Little pixilated men fall from the sky and collide with the ground.

As we learn very quickly, the fall did not kill our good friend Chev, and he is scraped off of the concrete with snow shovels by a group of men who pull up in a windowless black van. We are supposed to believe this is due to his super strong “Superman” heart, which, when he wakes up some time later, has been removed from his chest and replaced with a battery powered artificial model that has an inconsistent level of charge.

The razor thin premise of this movie, if you can even call it a premise, is that he has to run around and find his heart, which is going to be implanted into the hundred year old body of the head of the Chinese mob, played by David Carradine in one of his final roles, and who has the unfortunate name of Poon Dong. I’m sure they thought this name was really funny during the five minutes it took writer/director duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor to write the script. Occasionally Chev has to find various ways to electrocute himself in order to keep his heart fully charged. And of course, he has to fuck his stripper girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart reprising her tour de force role from the first movie), in front of thousands of people at a racetrack to create friction to charge his heart. Once he gets his heart back he trusts Dwight Yoakam to put it back in. That seems like a bad idea, but who knows, maybe Dwight really does know what he’s doing. Plausibility wasn’t a big concern during production.

I’ve never played any of the Grand Theft Auto games, I’m not good at video games, but I have lived with gamers who were fanatical about the series, so I have spent more time than I am proud of watching other people play them. As far as I can tell, this is really just a live action version of the popular franchise. There are even cut away maps that are identical to the ones that occur in game.

I can’t even begin to describe the insanity of this movie. The above description does not even come close. I earnestly believe that words are incapable of accurately capturing the essence of this film. From the first second it is an overwhelming wave of flashing images, abrupt edits, jumps, shakes, spins, and bright colors of all varieties. The entire film is crooked and jittery and fish-eyed, even the subtitles. I can only imagine watching Crank 2 is what it is like to consume a vast quantity of raw mescaline and then die mid-trip. It is world-view altering in its madness.

Since I can’t figure out how to truly convey this movie to you, here are some of the greatest hits. There is the aforementioned fucking-on-the-racetrack scene where Eve is thrust forward to climax by sight of an enormous horse wang. A Latino gangster who has his entire face sleeved in tattoos, including a classy one across his upper lip that says, “trust no bitch,” is forced to cut off his own nipples. A fake boob gets shot and spews silicone. Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite shows up in heavy eyeliner as the twin brother of a character who died in the first installment. He has “full body tourette’s,” which apparently means that he occasionally stops and headbangs for a moment before continuing along his merry way. Oh, and at one point, Chev and Johnny Vang fight it out at an electrical substation and they magically transform into giant, Godzilla style monsters for some reason. And there is so much more. Like I said, I still can’t get my head around any of it.

Is this a joke? If it is, are they in on it? There are moments that I’m pretty sure are supposed to be funny, but they only succeed in being bizarre and surreal.

Statham basically sprints his way through every canted frame, pausing just long enough to shock himself and grunt about it before taking off at a dead run again. And it ends with him on fire, glaring into the camera lens, flipping the bird as the bitchin’ Mike Patton score kicks it up a notch.

Did I mention how insanely racist Crank 2 is? No? Well it is.

This truly is like no other film I have ever seen. I am simultaneously glad that it is present in the world, and frightened that it exists. It is neither good nor bad, just completely and totally insane. I do not have an appropriate reference point from which to pass judgment. It is as if this movie comes from a realm so foreign, so alien, that my mind is unable to comprehend it on any meaningful level. Part of me looks at Crank 2: High Voltage and wonders if it is simply ahead of its time, and perhaps one day, many, many years in the future, I will look back upon it as a quaint and old-fashioned artifact of the early twenty-first century. I sincerely hope not, because I truly weep for that future.

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