Crank 2: High Voltage (US - BD)
Gabe assumes he's found the front runner for this year's Best Picture Oscar
The last time we saw Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) he was laying dead on the pavement after falling a couple thousand feet from a helicopter. It looked like his story was over. Fortunately (unfortunately) for Chev the local chapter of Chinese Triads has scraped him off the street, and saved his life… by removing his heart and replacing it with an artificial one. Three months later Chev awakens from his coma, and escapes his captors. Unfortunately his new fake heart will only last sixty minutes now that it’s unplugged, unless he manages to keep it charged. Chev’s only chance of survival is to find his old heart and have Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) stick the ticker back where it belongs.
What if you took post-modern, and multiplied it by meta, then by every pop culture reference ever invented, and divided it by any sense of logic, subtract all political correctness, and pretend real life is a video game? You might get something like Crank 2: High Voltage, an overwhelmingly energetic and silly sequel to the already overwhelmingly energetic and silly Crank. Writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Neveldine/Taylor) take the more the merrier to heart, and dismiss unnecessary narrative elements like plot and character development in favour of more action, more sex, more nudity, more violence and more ridiculousness. Historically critics have hated the ‘more of the same’ school of movie sequels, and historically they’ve been correct, but sometimes a nihilistic disregard for critical acceptance leads to cinematic brilliance. I call it the Final Destination 2 Effect. Crank 2 isn’t a movie, it’s a mix tape of Looney Tunes cartoons, ‘80s gore movies, modern, digitally augmented action, video games, and music videos. One thousand monkeys working on one thousand computers, checking their monkey emails, doing Googlemap searches, sending YouTube links to their monkey friends, and streaming Netflix video might come up with something close to this.
As if we missed the point of the exercise, Troma president Lloyd Kaufman makes a cameo appearance, as do a whole bunch of porn stars, making the ‘artistic intent’ clear. If only they’d gotten Takashi Miike too, because there are shades of Ichi the Killer, Gozu, and especially the Dead or Alive trilogy. Neveldine/Taylor don’t have the penchant for shock Miike does (Miike likes to spit genuine disturbance at his audience between moments of enjoyable violence), but they do have an amusing riff on Ichi the Killer’s tongue cutting scene. Sometimes the over-the-topness of it all is kind of exhausting, and downright unfunny. The penis, testicle and nipple fetishes lose their humour through overuse, but there are oodles of repeating jokes that never grow old, like the aliasing of nudity. The cut-away gags are a little too Airplane meets Family Guy, but they sometimes hit, like the poor sap that is hit by a stray bullet following his breakthrough at the psychiatrist, or the man-in-suit fight. It’s the spaghetti at the wall theory of comedy, and sometimes I like it.
How do you shoot such a film for so little cash? You shoot it on teeny, tiny HD home video cameras, the kind you, yourself, can buy at your local electronic store. ‘Wouldn’t that look like ass, Gabe?’ you implore. Apparently not. Apparently you can shoot Crank 2: High Voltage on cheap little HDs (cost between $700 and $3500), and have it look better than the majority of big budget flicks on Blu-ray disc. Anyone who owns a copy of the first Crank on Blu-ray knows how amazingly sharp the digital HD details are—so sharp I thought the disc was defective when watching it on my old set. Lifelike is an inaccurate description, because the human eye can’t absorb this much information. The shutter speeds are a little strange, and the sharpness of some whites is a little overwhelming, but the look is incredible, and doesn’t really work in standard definition. The detail of skin is particularly mesmerizing. Watching the film a second time with the commentary I found myself simply waiting for a new character to show up just to catch a glimpse of their specific pore and facial hair structures.
Beyond the detail are the colours, which are relentlessly stylized at some points. Both the on set rigs and the post-production tinkering produce brutally bright hues, and there isn’t a lick of compression noise to hinder the full bore clarity of every piece of the rainbow. The whole thing is shot pretty high contrast as well, which both assists the sharp details, and leads to some deep, dark blacks, and some bright, clean whites. There really isn’t anything to complain about here—there’s no largely noticeable edge-enhancement, or digital artefacts. Even the grain is under control, and almost exclusively, clearly intended.
What if your iPod was stuck on random, and you only included about thirty seconds from each song, and the volume level was stuck at eleven? Then you might have the Crank 2 soundtrack. This DTS-HD track is aggressive on all fronts, from ambient noise and basic vocal performances, to understandable action cues, and the most cartoony, over-stated sound effects. The sound of free flowing electricity oozes throughout the track, along with more bullet hits and ricochets than three Sam Peckinpah flicks, and the unnatural noise of fourth wall breaking film shutters and stretched audio track. The noise comes hard and fast, but mostly maintains a sense of aural coherence during its attack, and the important stuff is made plenty clear. The schizophrenic musical soundtrack plays the heaviest role in the whole track. Besides the nips and snips of pop and rock, the music is even more strongly represented in Mike Patton’s pitch perfect original score. Patton (who rock fans will remember as the lead singer of Faith No More) picks and chooses genres, creating an equally schizophrenic mix tape brimming with the heaviest metal, the phatest beats, and the most violent electronic overtones.
The disc’s extras start with a writers/directors commentary, augmented by a PiP BonusView mode. Fortunately for me and my little Profile 1.0 Blu-ray player the BonusView option this time around is an entirely separate element on the disc. The commentary is pretty dull, and considering how funny the movie is shocking unamusing, but there are some fun factoids, and with the BonusView extras activated everything is very entertaining. When the Neveldine/Taylor are facing us and talking it’s easy to lose interest, but the behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews are a fun way to experience the already overwhelming movie. The most interesting bits are those featuring the duelling directors shooting with the itty bitty cameras, giving a glimpse of how this mess of images was put together into a semi-coherent whole.
‘Making Crank 2’ (51:20, HD) is a two part behind the scenes doc that actually manages to tell us more about the movie than the commentary and BonusView combined. Issues covered during this collection of cast and crew interviews include the inception, producers convincing the directors to make the film, the directors writing the film as a practical joke, gathering the cast, discovering the tiny HD cameras, shooting on the LA locations, dealing with LA paparazzi, getting the porn stars together (Ron Jeremy apparently showed up without being asked), shooting stunts, dealing with Bai Ling, editing, special effects, and the possibility of Crank 3. ‘Crank 2 Take 2’ (04:00, HD) is a collection of in-camera mistakes that made the final cut, but went by too quickly to notice without being pointed out. Things wrap up with a ‘Wrap Party Gag Reel’ (03:30, HD) and a trailer, along with trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
How can a critic find more than a few paragraphs to say about a movie that looks them in the face, smiles and gives them a flaming middle finger just before the credits roll? Crank 2 steps over some pretty touchy lines, but it’s always gleefully offensive, and light-heartedly subversive, even when revelling in all the things that make us squirm. One can’t help but think that Andy Warhol and all the early Dadaists would’ve approved. The film was made using cheap little HD cameras, and the direct digital transfer is nearly perfect in 1080p. The wild and wacky DTS-HD soundtrack ain’t to shabby either. The extras aren’t outstanding, but cover most of the behind the scenes bases.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 8th September 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Extras: Directors Commentary, BonusView, Making Crank 2, Crank 2 Take 2, Gag Reel, Trailers, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Corey Haim, Dwight Yoakam, David Carradine, Bai Ling, Reno Wilson
Genre: Action, Comedy and Thriller
Length: 95 minutes
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