Here's something you probably haven't considered - Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, working under the slash-happy nom de plume Neveldine/Taylor, are Quentin Tarantino without the polish, the video store clerk cinematic knowledge, or the need to constantly reference the auteurs of the past. Instead, their almost pornographic love of the film medium is filtered through video games, advanced technological tricks, and a philosophy that's more chili cheeseburgers and fries than high art and the French New Wave. Let's face it - these dudes are f-ing nutzoid! Acting as their own camera operators, using downsized devices as a means to whip around (and sometimes through) the action, they are ADD personified, as geeky as QT minus the maddening tendency to take everything uber-seriously. So it's no surprise then that N/T's follow-up to their fabulous Jason Statham starrer Crank is the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen of good sequels. Unlike that squalid Michael Bay bungle, however, this is one over amped continuation where 2000% more of everything that made the first film work ends up creating a masterpiece, not a mess.
When last we left unstoppable hitman Chev Chelios, he was lying on the pavement in the middle of LA, having seemingly survived a freefall from an airplane. Within seconds, his body is scooped up by Asian gangsters and he is taken to an undisclosed location. There, some elective surgery finds Chev without his workhorse ticker, a plastic pumper in its place and a battery pack attached so that he can stay alive while the rest of his organs are harvested. Unwilling to be a mystery donor for some Triad mobster, Chev escapes, contacts his old pal Doc Miles, and learns that he has to keep the power source charged on his artificial heart, less he die. Hoping to find out what happened to his wayward vital, he seeks out girlfriend Eve, meets up with dead friend Kaylo's brother Venus, gets "help' from a crazed Chinese hooker, and confronts several members of the Verona Brother's criminal crew. Turns out that the secretive El Huron is behind the bodily theft, and that an old coot named Poon Dong is involved as well. Armed with this information, Chev shoots up electricity like junk as he makes a last stand to get his heart back and get revenge on those who wronged him...again.
You read right - masterpiece. There, it's been said and it can't be taken back. Of course, there's a caveat, an added bit of info that will turn that imagined frown way upside down. In the realm of ridiculous action epics, films that make absolutely no big ass bones about being anything other than crack smoke guilty pleasure stuntwork flavored with pure adolescent adrenalin, Crank 2: High Voltage is The Rules of the Game. It's the Lawrence of Arabia of insane Asian prostitute/Tourette's syndrome tranny/plastic heart histrionics. With the heroic human tendon Statham selling the mind-bending storyline, and our caffeinated filmmakers relying on hundreds of mini-cameras to capture the chaos, nothing is left to the imagination. Crank 2 is the kind of film that, if you can envision it, Neveldine and Taylor have already figured out how to shoot it and have it up there on the screen for you to suck on. Wanna see Statham boning costar Amy Smart on a racetrack while clearly aroused stallions soar overhead? You got it. Wonder what it would be like to see Bai Ling go bonkers, her skanky Szechwan fire in full flame without the benefit of her meds? No problem. How about a Godzilla homage? A nod to They Saved Hitler's Brain? A stripper getting shot in the implants? It's all here.
Indeed, there is so much going on in Crank 2 that you simply have to give in to Neveldine and Taylor's short attention span designs and go along for the rip-snorting rollercoaster ride. This is a movie that definitely benefits from multiple viewings. It's just impossible to take in everything they are doing the first time through. Such a Hellsapoppin' ideal will drive some viewers to distraction, their need for linear narrative and dimensional characterization incompatible with gay African American biker gangs and Corey Haim in a mullet. This is not to say that Crank is superficial. In fact, Chev Chelios, his smoking hot gal pal Eve, and many of the supporting players are cleverly drawn with elements that make them easily recognizable and instantly identifiable. We cheer our hero even if he's a little hamfisted in his interpersonal approach, and champion his arm candy eve if she'd kick our butt for saying so. Sure, motivations can be measured out in lusts, perversions, tendencies toward violence, and random drug deficiencies, but thanks to the guys' expert eye for talent and casting, such foibles form the basis for many of Crank's most memorable personalities.
Perhaps the biggest surprise here is how well the duo's everything including the greasy cheese sauce in the kitchen sink approach works. Sure it's all out of control Id and strident self-gratification, but since they're willing to share the experience with anyone up to the challenge, such insularity is perfectly fine. Indeed, once you get into the swing of it, standing with Chev as he takes out another collective of fools in his ever elusive quest, you come to really appreciate Neveldine and Taylor's talent. These guys clearly know how to manipulate the medium, to take the language of film and reinterpret it the way their designs demand. It's as effect and electrifying as when Tarantino twists history or uses bloodshed as a definitive dramatic accent. They're all magicians, tricksters and wizards in a world almost exclusively populated with journeymen and jokes. While they may never reach the level of pure artistry, N/T somehow manage to find a way to turn artifice into something wholly unique. If you're tired of the same old action rot, if you could do without another example of hopped up machismo making mincemeat out of the villainy with a machine gun and a motor mouth, come on over to the kingdom of Crank. As High Voltage clearly indicates, it will be one mean mothertrucker of a time.
Here's the deal - this movie was made on the fly, with cameras that cost anywhere from $3000 to $300 dollars each. Many of the scenes were shot with these little handheld beauties, wires and plastic pipe serving as rigs to maintain balance and crane-like overhead perspective. And as the transfer tells us time and time again, you'd never, EVER know it. This film looks absolutely amazing, a true illustration of how far the video camera technology has come in the last few years. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is brilliant, the transfer bringing the dedicated post-production tweaking to startling life. From the video to film process to the consistent coloring work, this is a great looking picture. One imagines the Blu-ray being even more definitive.
Offered in a channel challenging Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix, Crank 2: High Voltage sounds sensational. The dialogue is always clear, and the actions scenes crackle with speaker sparking bravado. There are times when the feeling of immersion is overwhelming, the aural anarchy of the sequence threatening to implode your home theater set-up. But more times than not, everything is moderated in a fashion that takes full advantage of the digital domain.
Never taking anything very seriously, Neveldine and Taylor are on hand to deliver yet another self-effacing and fun commentary track. Their insights into the film, as well as their unending desire to mock just about everything, turn this bit of added content into a subversive, surreal experience. One things for sure - there is clearly no love loss between the duo and a certain Asian actress. Additionally, Statham, Smart, Clifton Collins Jr., David Carradine and several others show up to discuss the Making-of the movie. As producer Skip Williamson explains the miniature nature of the equipment used, we see how many of the film's over the top sequences were realized. There's also a bloopers collection, a trailer, and a digital copy of the film for your portable devices. About the only thing missing is a conversation with Mr. Bungle/Faith No More's Mike Patton who delivered an amazing soundtrack for this movie. His contributions definitely warrant their own featurette.
All Neveldine and Taylor apologizing aside, Crank 2: High Voltage is a fabulous post-post modern action epic. It's all movement and mayhem, leaving little time for pointless film stock tenets like logic and realism. It's a fever dream with poontang as the delirium-producing infection, hallucinations founded in body odor and beefcake - with just a little sleazoid titty bar LSD thrown in for damn good measure. Easily earning its Highly Recommended rating, it remains one of those obscene creative rarities - a film that takes something we've seen before and doctors it up until it's almost unrecognizable. When you think about it, the hitman after the a-holes who wrong him has been done to death. Crank 2 celebrates the passing of such pedestrian narratives, juicing it up with a balls-out blatancy that turns everything into a lark. You'll either love it or hate it - there is no real middle ground here. For all their QT like complements, Neveldine and Taylor are really just clowns in their own creative circus - and things kick all kinds of ass under their particular brand of big top.