Crank: High Voltage (2009)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // April 17, 2009
Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 17, 2009
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As the third act began, I was enjoying Crank: High Voltage, but I wasn't quite sure where it was going (silly question, right?). Then, at about the 75 minute mark, something is unveiled that sold me on the entire experience. You can complain all you want about the movie's abrasively hyperkinetic editing and cinematography, its rampant racism, violence, and nudity, its awful dialogue and ludicrous plot, but Crank 2 has absolutely no qualms going as far over the top as it possibly can, and I defy anyone to correctly guess how the movie ends. Either the concluding moments of Crank 2 signal some sort of unhinged psychotic genius, or they're an omen for death of cinema. I'm leaning towards the former.

Clearly, the best explanation for how Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) survives his fall from a helicopter at the end of Crank is no explanation whatsoever, and thus, the minute he hits the pavement, a bunch of Asian gangsters show up, scoop him off the street with a snow shovel and drag him to a seedy laboratory where they yank out his seemingly indestructible heart and replace it with a battery-powered ticker that Chev needs to constantly zap with electricity to stay alive. Angry and looking to reclaim what's rightfully his, Chev goes on another city-wide rampage while trying to avoid not one but (at least) three different villains looking to put Chev out of his misery for a multitude of unsavory reasons.

I'm blown away to say it, but Crank 2 actually makes the original look like a safe, studio-friendly venture. Lionsgate apparently didn't set any restrictions on directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (or Neveldine/Taylor, as they're credited) for this sequel, and boy, do they go all-out. I've never seen a guy's elbow chopped off in a movie before, but now I have. Still, the same ideas from the original remain: the notion that these films are a cinematic video game is pushed even harder (especially by Mike Patton's 8-bit-inspired score), ridiculous on-screen subtitles and captions pop up to literally spell things out for the viewer, and once again, the movie really rests on the shoulders of Jason Statham and Amy Smart, who are apparently game for any form of ridiculous, jaw-dropping debauchery the writing/directing duo can cook up (Smart especially, whose character has become more sexually adventurous during the three months Chev's been missing).

This is also not a sequel you should see without another viewing of the original. A whole mess of characters return (played by Dwight Yoakam, Keone Young, Reno Wilson, "It's Always Sunny"'s Glenn Howerton, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington and Efren Ramirez, sort of) and the movie constantly references events from the first movie. Ramirez is particularly inspired, hampered by a ridiculous condition I'm not going to reveal, and he's got a perfect counterpart in a new character played by Bai Ling. She plays a hooker who thinks Chelios is her "Kevin Costner", and while she's certainly a ridiculous stereotype, I can't say I have any sympathy for anyone who walks into Crank 2 and doesn't want to be offended.

All of these elements build up over the movie's 96 minutes, but that one last reveal really kicked things into high gear. The moment in question is almost so jaw-droppingly ridiculous, the movie's actual ending feels a little lacking (David Carradine is completely wasted). It's so rare that a sequel can really go somewhere that an audience, jaded in a way by the original, finds completely unexpected, but Crank 2 manages that feat. In that one moment, I realized that the filmmakers really had no boundaries, and they were willing to break any rule to jolt the audience with a Chev Chelios-sized burst of electricity. Neveldine/Taylor have said that if Crank 2 is a hit, they'll make a concluding chapter in 3D, and although I feel like the ending of Crank 2 might have been cannibalized in advance for a third movie, I can't wait to see it: my brain may turn to mush, but I'm confident that I couldn't guess what happens in Crank 3 in a million years, and like it or not, that's exactly the kind of movie I'd pay $10 more to see.

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