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I remember buying a Playstation 2 for one reason and one reason only: to play a game that—at that time—was not available on any other console. That game was Grand Theft Auto. It was a gas, running around with no moral boundaries and an assortment of fun weapons that you could use to dispatch any living being you came across. Sure, I did not necessarily like the idea of very young kids being influenced by it, but since it did not evoke any particularly criminal tendencies in me I was happy to while away hours doing missions for mob bosses, stealing and collecting sports cars, recruiting gang members, starting fights and going on killing sprees—against both cops and criminals alike. As I said, it was great fun. Although the storylines were often loosely based on movies ( GTA: Vice City borrowed heavily from Scarface), their popularity made a fresh film tie-in a potential cash cow. Unfortunately I have not heard of an official GTA adaptation being even touted for production. But then I came across Crank.

Crank

Feature


Chev Chelios is a West Coast hitman who wakes up in his apartment with what seems like a massive hangover, only to find out that he has been injected with a deadly poison by a rival assassin. Whilst desperately searching for a seemingly non-existent cure, he finds out that the only thing keeping his heart going is an abundance of adrenaline. Vowing to keep going, at least until he can explain things to his girlfriend (who is blissfully unaware of his day job) and settle the score with his rival, Chev races around the city doing simply whatever it takes to keep his adrenaline levels high, whether it be starting fights with gangs, driving through shopping malls with the cops chasing him or even shocking himself with electricity.

Despite the simple premise, the delivery of this movie is immensely enjoyable, with end result turning out to be—almost literally—an adrenaline-fuelled roller-coaster ride (as the critics say about so many action movies these days). And it feels just like a theatrical interpretation of all those GTA games that I so fondly enjoyed, with all the running around, stealing cars, evading police, beating up people and getting into shootouts that goes on. Couple this with a wickedly black veil of humour running throughout—apparent in all the scenes where the girlfriend is present, like when he has to distract her in order to run off and beat a thug up—and what you have is one of the most enjoyable popcorn action flicks that I have seen for quite a while.

Crank
Cast-wise the movie is basically all one man. Sure, Amy Smart ( The Butterfly Effect) is cute and remarkably pragmatic as the girlfriend and Dwight Yoakam ( The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrade) is quite quirky as Chev’s shady quack contact, but the rest of the movie is just Jason Statham. He is on great form in the lead role as Chev Chelios, with some great lines and, thankfully, not covering up his gravely cockney accent like he has had to do in some of his other recent efforts. I would never have pegged him for an action hero, particularly not based upon his work on Guy Richie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but after the gloriously fun martial arts action-fest that was The Transporter, it was clear that there was a side to this star that audiences had not seen before.

Now, after the enjoyable-but-for-the-silly-ending Transporter 2, we see him take on a slightly different role in Crank, and the change is definitely for the better, broadening his acting capabilities beyond just the clichéd cockney east-end criminal or ex-special forces mercenary. No longer the suit-wearing consummate professional; as Chev Chelios, Statham is an unshaven, almost bipolar killing machine who brawls and fights and blags his way through situations with luck riding high on his side. And with the Chinese poison coursing through his veins, he’s like an angry, armed Duracell bunny, rampaging his way around town. I have to say that I would quite like him to do a third Transporter instalment, but doubt very much that it will top this in terms of sheer enjoyment factor.

Crank
Style-wise, the production is all hand-helds and close-ups, split-screen and desaturated freeze-frame shots, with frantic running around, frenzied driving, dazed, drug-induced shooting and even some top-down shots of the city all drawing even more parallels between this and its unofficial videogame alter-ego. There are some great visual comedy moments as well, (to match the fantastic lines that Statham gets) like when letters magically appear over Chev’s head after he says ‘does it look like I got c**t written on my head’ or when he has a drug-hazed ‘conversation’ with a Japanese suit in a elevator and finds it difficult reading the subtitles himself. It makes the movie yet more enjoyable without ever diffusing the tension of Chev’s plight. In fact, the movie style is so damn immersive that it even affected my driving out of the cinema parking lot after seeing it. It is, in itself, an adrenaline-rush, pumping away at you with visuals, sounds, shouting and shooting and leaving you bright-eyed and buzzing by the time the credits reel (where, you might notice, a Rockstar energy drink can is shown—for the second time, after the supermarket scene—nods to the makers of the GTA games, Rockstar). Crank may not hit the right spot for everybody out there, many might find the rough, crude format and content a little abrasive and not slick enough, but personally I thoroughly enjoyed the GTA rip-off, rooted for Statham’s anti-hero and highly recommend this movie for its pure entertainment value. Switch your brain off and enjoy the adrenaline-fuelled ride.

Crank

Video


Crank comes presented with a very variable 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. By variable, I mean that there are so many different effects and film stocks used that the quality can change drastically. Occasionally the picture looks akin to a medium-budget Hollywood production, with some of the split-screen moments reminiscent in quality to recent 24 episodes, but for the most part it looks distinctly low-budget. It showcases all the defects of its largely hand-held filming style: softness, occasional grain, sporadic detail issues and some edge enhancement. Thankfully you don’t really notice when watching the frantic production and all the desaturation techniques, freeze-shots and visual gimmicks distract enough to keep you from being too critical (other than initially, when you see Statham and notice that this clearly does not look as slick as something like The Transporter). As I’ve stated, this transfer perfectly reflects the frenzied content.

Crank

Audio


The audio treatment is simply excellent. It is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 affair with clear and coherent presentation of the dialogue but, from the outset, the predominantly heavy soundtrack (packed with tracks of a Rage Against the Machine style) hits you hard and keeps the momentum going throughout. It is all perfectly chosen, largely angry, frenetic music which really hits home. Effects-wise there are just as many audio flourishes as there are visual gimmicks. Chev’s twisted mobile phone ringtone gets plenty of coverage, as do sirens, gunshots and all the other effects you would associate with this kind of affair. There are even some classic GTA: Vice City-esque tracks in there to emphasise the influence. It’s a superb track, with plenty of bass and surround coverage and all the right ingredients to keep your adrenaline levels high.

Extras


All we get from the main menu is the standard theatrical trailer, which is a bit of a disappointment when you consider how interesting a commentary or an effects featurette might be (or even some funny outtakes). There are also some trailers on disc start-up (one for the frantic and action-heavy Smokin’ Aces and another for the follow-up to Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, which looks superb).

Crank

Overall


Crank is a great, fun, at times gross, at times hilarious adrenaline ride, with Jason Statham in a superb central performance. It’s like a cockney Man on Fire-themed instalment of GTA, brought to life on the Big Screen. From a technical standpoint, the MTV-style video has been given decent enough presentation here, but it is the rocking soundtrack that really stands out, almost enough to distract away from the complete lack of extras. I definitely recommend this for fans of GTA (who should also stick around after the credits for a brief moment of Crank-themed GTA madness) and those intrigued by the concept and prepared to leave their brains at home should also find it most enjoyable. Despite being an all-out popcorn action flick, it has some memorable moments and some great lines and is basically just a fantastic ride. Highly recommended.


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