Crank

Non-stop action fused with comedy highlight the new Jason Statham vehicle, Crank, which gets your adrenaline pumping till you want to explode. It’s an interesting and totally unique concept. But why was I experiencing deja-vu?

Chev Chelios (Statham) is a hit man who has just been hit with a slow acting poison known as the Beijing cocktail, which blocks the adrenal glands, effectively cutting off your natural resting supply of adrenaline. In order stay alive and exact his vengeance upon the Latino crime lords who sentenced him to death, Chelios has to stay moving to pump out abnormal amounts of adrenaline, and goes so far as to overdose on epinephrine (artificial adrenaline) and get a full defibrillator shock to the heart.

It’s an action film in the purest sense of the term. It fills all 83 minutes of its unusually short run time with action that never stops, which works in favor of rookie writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. In fact, I don’t even mind the short runtime, because any more of all that running and fighting would have been just too much to handle, even for hardcore adrenaline junkies.

Jason Statham has this natural talent of portraying this big, tough, intimidating man that you wouldn’t want to cross, and then he cracks a joke without cracking a smile which makes him seem much more down to earth, though still intimidating. And that type of energy was brought to the whole production. It’s a big tough action film from start to finish, but jokes around without dropping the overall serious tone, keeping the audience reminded that no matter what, he’s going to die.

And the ending isn’t the real payoff of the film. In recent years, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the surprise or shock twist ending of a film that will leave you asking “what the hell?’ (thanks to The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects). But for Crank, it’s the journey to the end that makes the movie satisfying. It’s like a rollercoaster. You laugh and scream the whole way through, not just at the end when you come into the unloading platform.

While this was Statham’s film, it wouldn’t have worked as well without the great supporting cast around him. Amy Smart takes what could have been a throwaway role of Chelios’ girlfriend, but turned into an impressive performance, keeping up with Statham’s humour. And you can’t help but recognize and acknowledge the talent of perennial scene stealer Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite).

But while it is a genuinely enjoyable film, I can’t help but think I’ve seen this before. Neveldine and Taylor seemed to have taken a cue from former Statham collaborator Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino before him on the visual style. Hype-noir action/comedies that aren’t made by Ritchie or Tarantino have the misfortune of being compared against the films of the British auteur and his American predecessor. They each set/matched the standard of which all films of the genre are going to be compared for a long time to come. Whether or not it’s justified in this case, too much suggests direct influence to not warrant the comparison. It’s that, or it just seems like Speed, only in a person instead of a bus.

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