There was a discussion that recently reverberated through the halls of the DVD Talk offices as to the best "guilty pleasure" film in your DVD collection, and Crank was tossed around as one such movie. For me, everyone I knew was suggesting that I watch it, but I dismissed the idea for the longest time. I'd always suggest it was too silly. This was coming from someone who watched and enjoyed Shoot 'Em Up, the equally implausible Clive Owen guns and one-liners film. However, when finally I saw Crank, I hungrily ate those words. Crank was fun, did not take itself seriously, and is a part of my Blu-ray library. As it turned out, the film made twice its production budget ($27 million against a $12 million budget, according to boxofficemojo) in revenue, so a sequel was naturally in order.
It's hard to discuss Crank 2: High Voltage without talking about part of the first one, so I'll try to cover the Crank universe quickly. Hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham, The Bank Job) was trying to find the people responsible for poisoning him. The poison was such that any drop in adrenaline below a reasonable level could have been fatal, so the first film saw him employ various means to keep his body going. The original Crank ended with him falling thousands of feet from a helicopter in the Los Angeles sky to his death. But not so fast, because the same people who might have poisoned him have removed his heart in the sequel, presumably because of its seeming invulnerability and replaced it with an artificial one. So now Chelios has to keep the juice up, lest he meet his maker, hence the High Voltage moniker for Crank 2.
Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the guys responsible for the first Crank, I should mention that the film is only going to be enjoyable if you buy into the absurdity of the premise. But at least the first film gets it out of the way quickly. In Crank, you get five minutes to digest the hook and then you tagalong and watch Chev try to stay alive through various means. Some stupid, some unbelievable, all of which are either funny or entertaining. But in High Voltage, it almost seems like Neveldine and Taylor are still happy that they managed to pull off the first film: they get so involved with tossing things at the viewer that they might have lost sight of what made the first film so fun.
That was the action. In the first film, there were very little lulls or moments of character reflection. High Voltage has a little more downtime than the first one and is enamored with occasional stunt casting choices that linger. The main cast from the first film returns, including Chev's girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart, Road Trip) and his doctor (Dwight Yoakam, Sling Blade. And while Kaylo (Efren Ramirez, Napoleon Dynamite) is dead, his twin brother Venus is here, despite suffering from full body tourette's. Some of the very peripheral supporting cast from Crank return, including one in a hilarious scene. Nevertheless, there is too much time spent on some other actors. For instance, the appearance of Bai Ling (Lords of Dogtown) as a smitten Morgan Freeman to Statham's Kevin Costner iwas unnecessary. David Carradine (Kill Bill) plays the Asian who wants Chelios' heart, but it seems like he's channeling James Hong's Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China. And the less said about former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell (as Chelios' mum) and Corey Haim (as a strip club customer), the better.
That's not to say that Crank 2 doesn't have its moments of fun, despite how much disbelief needs to be suspended while viewing. Car chases and battle scenes are aplenty, though not to the same aplomb of the first film. I had a few laughs at the film's expense, laughs that made me remember what I liked about the first one. But those chuckles are few and far between in High Voltage. The film's last shot is of Statham, hands and head covered in CG flames, while he gives the finger to the camera. You can look at it as the segue to a third Crank, or as Neveldine and Taylor's message to the critics, but I kind of saw it as a somewhat rude gesture to those who enjoyed the first Crank. I liked the first one and am not afraid to say it, but if you're going to make a sequel, at least put some thought and consideration into it or you risk turning away those who flocked to number one. For as fun as the first one was, it at least had some sort of cohesive plot and pleasant tone. The second one is style for style's sake, and it leaves me disappointed.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The first Crank was released back in 2007 and was generally hailed as a reference quality disc and fortunately, High Voltage arrives and matches its predecessor in its level of greatness. The 1.85:1 widescreen film is presented with the AVC MPEG-4 codec and looks outstanding. Neveldine and Taylor throw a lot of visual trickery at you and it translates very well in high definition, with more image detail than you can shake a stick at. Facial detail, asphalt, hair, goose bumps on bottoms, you see it amazingly well. Flesh tones are accurately reproduced, colors are vivid without any incidental oversaturation, and blacks are solid as a rock. The chaos and frenzy that's seen on film looks amazing on Blu-ray and delivers another superior performance.
High Voltage gets 7.1 channels of sound like the first film, though the PCM treatment from the first has been dropped for a DTS-HD Master Audio track this go-round. Dialogue is strong in the center channel and doesn't waver, and speaker panning/directional activity is uber-abundant throughout. During the gunfire sequence in the strip club when Chev finds Eve, bullet hits come from every channel and put you in the middle of the action. Subwoofer engagement is also prominent throughout the film, and it nearly rattled my fillings during the sequence when Chev wrecks a car and is thrown, ruining his battery pack. You've may have the best possible argument for lossless audio when you're watching Crank 2, hands down.
Cliff Stephenson was the DVD producer for both Crank films and has had a knack for knowing what the end-user wants from their DVD experience, be it from a technical or supplements perspective. He gives you two discs of fun, starting with a picture-in-picture (or "Crank'd Out") commentary. It's mainly a commentary with Neveldine and Taylor (which you can view on its own, but you should really watch the loaded version), but the cast is interviewed for their thoughts on the film, and the various crew members get to share their thoughts on the work. On a particular humorous note, it's great listening to the visual effects supervisor discuss the work put into adding some animal genitalia to the film. There's lots of off-camera footage of everyone mucking about, and the directors, when they're not joking about something in the film, bring a little bit of valuable information about the shoot from time to time. The experience is both informative and entertaining, and fans of the film will enjoy it. "Making Crank 2" (51:23) is the other big extra here and covers the production from both the shooting and post-production areas. Neveldine and Taylor share their initial reluctance to make a sequel, until they learned of Statham's interest. The pair also talk about getting the old cast back together as well as landing some new members, specifically Carradine. The cast discuss their thoughts of how Neveldine and Taylor run a set and the production in general, as the pair get into some of the more technical-based information, such as the cameras used, the stunt work employed and the computer effects. Unique moments, like working with the porn actors for the strike scene and dealing with the paparazzi are also recalled. The piece is an even and valuable mix of production and technical information, and it's a worthy complement to the film.
From there, "Take 2" (4:03) shows the continuity errors/crew in frame of any given shot, which the directors seem to pride themselves on. A gag reel (3:26) is next, though it's less funny and more fun. The disc is BD-Live enabled, and accessing it finds downloadable content such as computer wallpapers and cell phone ringtones, along with time and temperature widgets when the disc is in the main menu. You can also update your Twitter or Facebook status with an automatic message letting people know what disc you're watching, so that's pretty cool. The last extras on Disc One are six trailers for Lionsgate features, including both Crank pictures. A digital copy is the only other extra, housed on a second disc.
Perhaps I was looking for something more (or different) in Crank 2: High Voltage. The creative forces who made this one doubted they could top themselves from the original, and I agree. While it's reminiscent of the first one to some degree, those moments are fleeting. The supplements are great and technically this disc is a winner, so I'd recommend picking it up for the demo possibilities alone.