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A film review by CNash

Jason Statham has eighty-seven minutes to live. That's the precise length of his latest film, Crank, which is out on general release in the UK this week. Statham – whose name was made in action outings like The Transporter and Revolver – is Chev Chelios, a professional hitman, who wakes up one morning to find that he's been poisoned by mob boss Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). The drug he's been given suppresses the flow of adrenaline to his system; if he stops moving or slows down, he dies. Chev must keep his heart beating and his blood pumping for as long as he can.

Now, Chev isn't the kind of guy to just lay down and let himself slip away. Well, let's face it, that wouldn't be a very good movie. Instead, he dopes himself up on cocaine, epinephrine and large quantities of Red Bull, intending to go out with a bang and take Verona down with him. He adopts the kind of devil-may-care attitude that you can only really have if you're psychopathic or know you're about to die – he ploughs his car through a mall, crashes a police motorcycle into a restaurant and delivers a fist to the face to anyone stupid enough to get in his way. In fact, they don't even need to be in his way; he'll knock them out regardless.

That's really all you need to know. In short, Crank is a stupendously fast-paced action flick that's pretty much an excuse for Statham and co. to perform the most outlandish stunts possible. The movie is filmed with a deliberate jerky camera style – reminiscent of The Bourne Supremacy – that's intended to make you feel as if you're right there with Chev as he rampages through Los Angeles. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have also made imaginitive use of subtitling, employ Google Earth to provide zoomed-out city maps and sprinkle on some crude computer graphics for good measure, all of which help to disorient the viewer and keep their adrenaline flowing along with Chev's. The dialogue is short and snappy, and sometimes hard to make out, but that's ok; the plot doesn't matter in the slightest.

Crank is rated 18 in the UK, and is perhaps one of the only films that really deserves it. Chev's violent altercations with various gangsters are very gory – think Kill Bill, but without Tarantino's stylish touches. This is brutal, bloody stuff, and while it might not be completely realistic, it is nonetheless enjoyable. It's one of those films that, rather than leaving the viewer shocked at the carnage, taps into that strange tendency that people have to laugh when others are hurt. That, coupled with Chev's sardonic wisecracks and his fractured mental state (he goes through most of the movie totally stoned), makes Crank one of the funniest pure-action films of the genre.

Characterisation is virtually nil. Though the main stars give great performances, they're one-dimensional with a single motivation. Amy Smart as Chev's girlfriend exudes an aura of ditzy naivÎte, allowing Chev to have sex with her in the middle of a crowded street and acclimatising to the situation remarkably well. The few moments that Statham and Smart get to develop the relationship are surprisingly sweet; Chev knows he's going to die but doesn't know how to tell his girlfriend, instead leaving a touchingly frank message on her answerphone in his final moments.

Adding to the humour of the film is the soundtrack. Most of the movie gets by on a typical metal/rock/dance/whatever mix of action-flavoured tunes (provided by Paul Haslinger, who was also responsible for Underworld's similar score), but every so often, the proceedings are intercut with some totally unexpected music – for example when Chev, temporarily mellowed, rides through the city on a purloined motorcycle, Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking" glides out of the speakers. And just after Chev's doctor friend (Dwight Yoakam) explains Chev's situation, we're treated to "Achy Breaky Heart".

Altogether, Crank is a film that will mainly be enjoyed by people who are either adrenaline junkies live Chev, or else enjoy a good mindless action piece with insane stunts and some black comedy thrown in for good measure. At the moment, Hollywood is winding down from summer blockbuster season, allowing the smaller studios to release films like the much-hyped Snakes on a Plane and this, which – like Statham's previous film, The Transporter – are designed to appeal to filmgoers who are tired of high-concept "movies with a message". A spoonful of sugar, perhaps? 


USA 2006
87 mins
Mark Neveldine
Brian Taylor
Michael Davis
Mark Neveldine
Brian Taylor
Adam Biddle
Brian Berdan
Paul Haslinger
production design
Jerry Fleming
Jason Statham
Amy Smart
Jose Pablo Cantillo
Dwight Yoakam
Carlos Sanz
review posted
5 September 2006

See all of CNash's reviews