Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor's Crank (2006)

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's Crank (2006) is my favorite superhero-cum-antihero film of recent years. Villian Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo), often decked out in Joker-ish purple, has left our antihero, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), a sweet gift: a dvd labeled "Fuck You." As Chev grabs his heart, he watches himself incapacitated on the tube while Verona is giving him an injection of poison of the Chinese-synthetic type, guaranteed to deliver a slow painful death. Shit-talking Verona smirks and wishes our antihero "good-bye," while Chelios summons about every ounce of anger in his body. He hits the streets in his vintage wheels off to kill Verona in the most heart-racingly fashion as possible.
Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, a talented writing and directing duo, create a film in video-game, comic-book fashion, which others have tried unsuccessfully, that has all of the alluring aspects of the styles' aesthetics combined with an extremely literate script. The duo wrote an excellent script for the dark thriller, Pathology (2008), directed by Marc Schölermann, which was hampered slightly by a stiff leading actor but was nonetheless a terrific film. Crank, their debut film as writers and directors, initially appears as the type of film geared towards the ADD crowd but it's too focused to be written off as such. The visuals and audio are cutting-edge quality and technology, and the duo integrates myriad styles into the film. Crank has enough retro qualities to prevent the film from being too glossy; and of course, its humor, which is dark and often nasty and very funny, is Crank's biggest allure. Most of the humor is delivered by antihero Chelios in a stellar performance by Statham.
A man on a mission, Chelios is off to look for Verona. At a nearby club, one of Verona's would-be accomplices doesn't know where Verona is but is able to give Chelios some coke and with a little angry attitude, Chelios picks a fight with the club's patrons. The coke and the aggression give our antihero some pep, and when shady Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) gives him his cell-phone diagnosis that the poison will kill him if he slows down, Chelios knows that he has to keep a furious pace up in order to exact his revenge. Doc recommends epinephrine, so it's off to the hospital.
Crank opens with a first-person p.o.v., hits the streets for the quick cuts and fast pace in Chelios's vintage wheels (or on foot), which include a trip through the mall Blues Brothers-style, goes underwater for a quick underworld meeting, saturated colors litter interiors, on-screen text beyond subtitles (does Chelios look like he has what written on his forehead), and of course, a bit of blood is going to spray and stream, including the best use of a body shield since Governor Schwarzenegger's stint in Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall (1990). This is just a sample of Neveldine and Taylor's visuals, and their use of audio is both a superior accompaniment and an accomplishment on its own. Some of the fun stuff is watching Chelio's heart slow down before he bursts back into action. With a nifty dissolve, the camera x-rays his chest to show a couple slow pumps but its the heartbeats which ring in the viewer's ears. The audio of the heartbeats throughout Crank are not only a signal of Chelios's mortality but a nifty cue for the next exciting action sequence which often tops the preceding one. The music is a fantastic mix of odd and old jingles from Quiet Riot, an extremely humorous use of Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart," Loverboy, and NOFX, for example. Mixed into the soundtrack are little audio touches that break the "fourth wall," such as the use of reverb, cd-skipping sounds on some audio, and classic video game blips. Not least of all, the sound design and construction of the duration of the film would give any mixing board or speakers a work out and it's an impressive display of sound.
Most of the offbeat humor and detail of specific sequences in Crank should really be experienced by its viewer and not related here. I will say however, that Statham gives a tour-de-force performance in Neveldine and Taylor's true coup d'etat of cinema. Statham gives Chelios a sharp and sardonic edge combined with a ferocious intensity and feeling. His soft bits come with his girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart), and the two actors have an immediate on-screen chemistry. The lighter humor, still punctuated by some nasty bits, comes with these two characters who also deliver one of Crank's most audacious scenes. The dialogue between Chelios and Verona is priceless, as each manages to push the right button to infuriate the other. Their trash talking becomes a version of boys in the schoolyard armed with machine-gun wit. In between all of the fun stuff in Crank, Neveldine and Taylor litter the scenery and random shots with some truly odd compositions. The action sequences are phenomenal, and Crank's overall dark and perverse edge is extremely intriguing and attractive.Neveldine and Taylor delivered a sequel to Crank in 2009 and their forthcoming Gamer (2009) is one of my most-anticipated cinema trips this year. Crank is punk rock cinema played at high volume. I absolutely love this film. See it.

7 comments:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Hans, your blogs have been so good of late that I am going to award you with the highest achievement imaginable, the coveted "superlargepackage express delivery" award. The only other recipient of this award was myself, and, of course, John Goodman for his performance in the big lebowski. You have now officially become large and in charge.

Aaron said...

Y'know I still haven't seen this one yet, but I LOVED the shit out of Crank: High Voltage. I keep putting this one off and I need to just hurry up and go buy it already. Crank 2 is a lock for my top ten of the year which might shock a lot of people but that's how much I loved it. Plus the DVD comes out the day before my birthday! I would really like to see you do a review of that one too. What did you think of Pathology?

Emily said...

I've been hesitant to check out Crank because the whole frenetic filming style can sometimes be really off-putting, but I really enjoyed this review! I may now pop Crank into ye olde DVD player and, if feeling nauseous, simply focus on some of the stylistic choices you pointed out here.

Or, if all else fails, I'll just stare lovingly into the eyes of Jason Statham and hope he looks back.

Hans A. said...

Aaron, I'm prob. going to review both Crank 2 and Gamer when each hits dvd and the theatre. I might post one soon of Pathology. Hope you see Crank soon and give it a write-up.

Emily, yeah, Statham's pretty sexy. It's a loud and obnoxious film, which maybe deep down why I really love it.:)

Mr. LP, I feel as if you are setting me up. Thnx for the love, though. If I get a dvd in the morning labeled "FU," then it better not have you grinning in it with a syringe in your hand.:)

Thnx, again, to all of you for reading and commenting. I appreciate it always very much.

Neil Fulwood said...

What really sold me on 'Crank' was the scene following the Stat's departure from the hospital, woozy from the medication he's ingested, and riding a stolen police motorbike - stunt-rider stylee - dressed only in a hospital gown while 'Windmills of Your Mind' plays on the soundtrack. At this point, I knew the film was a work of demented genius.

And damn, Amy Smart's gorgeous!

pickleloaf said...

I still feel like the only person that was almost offended by how obnoxious and full of itself this movie felt.

When you set out with the intention of making a cult movie instead of just letting it happen; when I can see the intended audience being angry frat boys; then maybe the film just doesn't work.

At all.

It is beyond me still how this film is enjoyable.

Watch for every cliche ever, topping it off with the obligatory mention of Statham's large dong as he bangs his girlfriend who is conveniently turned on by having sex in public.

I have argued that movies that want to take place in movie-world should be left alone, but for some reason this entire flick just rubbed me the wrong way. It was too self-aware or something... I have no idea.

Sorry to be a party pooper!

Ty said...

Crank was a blast! Statham at his best.