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Crank 2: High Voltage Borders on Masterpiece, No Joke

Crank 2: High Voltage
Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Lionsgate, 2009

One of the surprise pleasures of 2006 was Neveldine and Taylor’s Crank, a movie that by all appearances looked like it would be a rapid-cut junk fest but by the end of the picture, damned if you’re not entertained and just want more.  Starring this decade’s de facto action star, Jason Statham, it could have easily just been another day, another bruising paycheck, a forgotten gem…but apparently the movie got that second life on video, which has been a staple of Statham’s resume.  We certainly wouldn’t have two more Transporter movies without the medium.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a Death Race 2 was in the offing.

Crank 2 takes us where we left off from the original, where Chev Chelios (Statham) has just fallen out of a helicopter and crashed to the ground, but his eyes flicker to show us he’s not quite dead.  He’s whisked away by gangsters, who want to take out his heart and put it into their boss, hooking up Chelios with an artificial one that is charged with a battery pack.  The doctors also have orders to take Chev’s mighty schlong, which is our inciting incident into which Chev breaks loose and searches for the guy who has his real heart.  He calls Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam, reprising his role), and he gives Chev (and the audience) the exposition we need: Chev’s battery pack will need a charge by anything possible to stay working.  This means touching things we normal humans wouldn’t dare touch like transformers, tazers, car cigarette lighters, and finding enough friction for some static electricity.  Believe me, this movie finds every opportunity to give Chev the rev he needs.

So, this one-man, stop-at-nothing is charging his battery and then kicking some ass, usually in a cartoony way, which filmed live-action is not only exhilirating but funny.  He’s tracking down low-life Johnny Vang (Art Hsu), the man who seemingly has his heart, but is also being pursued by remnants of the gang he offed in the original Crank, led by El Huron (Clifton Collins, Jr) and his main baddie Chico (Joseph Julian Soria).  So Chev has a lot of work to do, not to mention running into his former girlfriend who thought he was dead, Eve (the always appealing Amy Smart).  In the original, Chev and Eve have crazy public sex in Chinatown.  Here, they top it at a horse race, complete with blurring out of private parts.  And as if this movie couldn’t get any crazier, Bai Ling shows up as a whore named Ria who is saved by Chev and adopts him as her boyfriend, and gets crazy jealous of other girls.  Ultimately, this is all going to lead to a showdown with El Huron, the sight of a dead man being kept alive with Futurama-esque techniques, and an old man seemingly right out of Big Trouble in Little China: yes, his name is Poon Dong.  Yes, he’s played by David Carradine.

What’s incredible about a movie as cracked-out crazy as Crank 2 is how there is actual technique, actual care that can be seen during the action.  The action scenes are often marked with photographic stills, quick-cut to move it along in an effective way.  The humor is dead-on, perfect slapstick.  It’s the best of Stephen Chow and Run Lola Run and mashed into this hyperkinetic product that is never once boring.  You won’t believe your eyes at how many ridiculous things are in this picture.  It invites you to allow anything from the get-go and it never disappoints in straining credibility in a fun way.  I invite everyone to make time for this.  If you haven’t seen the original Crank, see that too.  Watch them in the same afternoon.  You’ll want to take a nice rest afterwards, but you’ll be smiling.

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