Movie Review: Crank 2: High Voltage

I'm afraid that telling you "If you liked Crank, you'll like Crank 2" just wouldn't be good enough. It also wouldn't necessarily be true. Most of all, it would be somewhat rude – discounting an entire film as nothing more than an echo, or an indulgence for the cult of its predecessor.

The end of the first film seemed to quite clearly rule out any possibility of a sequel and one of the most telling characteristics of Crank: High Voltage is simply that it exists. This is a film that disregards anything like the basic narrative logic of a 'dead' character staying dead because the realities of dying are rooted in the rigid actualities of biology, chemistry and physics. These are three things that the film has absolutely no use for. But it does make great play with non-rigid and non-actual cartoon versions of all the above. When the film is at its best, it verges on Tex Avery, and Jason Statham is Screwy Squirrel given permission to cause suffering, pain and offence.

Statham's character Chev Chelios was previously 'wired', now literally wired. The picture opens with him having his heart removed and replaced with an artificial heart, and that gives the film its key mcguffin: Chelios wants his heart back. Instead of needing to keep his adrenaline level high, as per the first film, Chelios herein has to keep his electric heart charged. Essentially, the film takes the exact same essential premise as the first but feeds it through a different set of superficial circumstances – lead character not drugged, but heart-swapped; he doesn't need adrenaline but needs electricity; he's under the clock with a score to settle.

This repetition of the first film is actually rather more specific than that, with several key scenes reprising ideas and plot beats from the first film. Crank: High Voltage is nothing if not observant of the successes of its predecessor.

The biggest changes are technical and, as a result, aesthetic. The film employs a wide-angle hand-video style for the vast majority of shots, and the footage has been processed* to strobe slightly, as per film that was shot with the shutter angled and shutter speed increased (see Saving Private Ryan or Gladiator). The resulting look is both crisp and jerky and, if nothing else, prevents either of the two prevalent 'video' looks – the normal, too crisp style and the 'fixed', softened pseudo film-look. There are a number of shots in which the camera operator tracks back from the actor and passes through an obstacle – a narrow break in a chain link fence, for an example – giving access that would have been costly and time consuming to replicated with a larger camera or a crane. As a result, the images are up close and intimate, though this is probably not your idea of a pleasant kind of intimacy.

There are a good handful of quirks that liven things up even as the sequel goes about running a race we've already seen the first film take bronze in: Efren Ramirez is brought back to help Statham out once more, though not actually as the same character; some prosthetic heads and miniature prop buildings take us on a delirious detour to the Tokusatsu Kaiju of, say, Godzilla; a pastiche of daytime talk shows (which goes pretty wide of the mark, and at least partly deliberately I'd guess) allows a flashback to the youth of Chev Chelios, and lets us meet his mother – who, quite amusingly, is played by Geri Halliwell of all people; there's a "what's in the box?" tease to sit alongside Pulp Fiction's briefcase in the realms of pointless supposition and internet argument.

If there's any serious and successfully communicated subtext to Crank: High Voltage (behind the virtually incidental, libertarian explosion of offensive terms and incidental, objectified representations of women, gay men and various racial groups) it ends up being something not unlike the subject satirised in Ben Fold's Rocking the Suburbs ("You Better Watch Out, Because I'm Gonna Say F***"). The Crank films offer – and in the final image before this film's end credits, literally so – the scream of the angry, disaffected Waspish male.

One scene, pretty late one, gives Amy Smart's character Eve chance to say why she loves Chev Chelios and the answer is, unsurprisingly, ridiculous. She's responding to his superhuman qualities, not his human ones. Of course, we have no choice but to do the same – the human qualities are largely thin and vague, and always pretty generic.

The credits suggest that Neveldine and Taylor wrote the script collaboratively and directed as a single gestalt entity. This retread is unlikely to lose them any fans or thin out the Crank cult any and, to my mind, pretty much guarantees a third installment. Interestingly, the hint at the end of the movie as to what the gimmick next time would be also seems to suggest... and this might be considered a spoiler, I'm afraid... that (invisotext:) Jason Statham is no longer an essential piece of the puzzle.

I'm not recommending Crank: High Voltage, but that's rather beside the point, I suppose. Its audience really don't need or want it recommended by anyone.

*I was wondering if the footage had been processed or if the cameras were capable of something like a 1/192 shutter speed until the end credits featured out takes which confirmed the effect was created in post.