Friday, August 21, 2009

Crank: High Voltage [movie review]

* Released theatrically in April; available on DVD September 8th
Let me cut right to the chase...Crank: High Voltage is the worst movie I have seen in recent memory and is so bad it well might hold a place on a top 10 list of the worst movies I've ever seen in my 39 years. While I normally resent reading movie reviews that give too many details and plot points away I feel no shame in doing so here. Hopefully it acts as a deterrent from inflicting this mess on even just one poor bastard out there.
The first Crank movie wasn't very good...frankly, I have a hard time distinguishing much from it and the rest of star Jason Statham's other generic action franchise of The Transporter movies. The one thing I do remember from Crank was it was fairly over-the-top, notably one car jumping scene that still stands out (until I saw this sequel) as probably the most ridiculous thing I'd seen in a movie. Calling High Voltage "over-the-top", however, is like saying the situation in Afghanistan is "kind of tricky"...the top for this movie isn't even in eyesight. This concept is rolled out early as the movie opens where Crank ended, with Statham's Chev Chelios character flying through the air after being tossed out of a helicopter from high altitude and then landing on the pavement. A truck pulls up and a gangster jumps out with a shovel and (with some assistance) scoops up the limp body. A couple of scenes later Chelios is having open heart surgery...and is conscious during the procedure. This sets up the, ahem, plot of the movie where Chelios must recover his heart, all the while keeping his artificial pumper alive through any variety of silly means involving electrical blasts. We're talking high art here, folks.
The intention of this movie is not lost on me: it was designed to be the epitome of style-over-substance in a balls out, no apologies, politically incorrect sort of way. Obvious influences in both its use of excess and visual style are Natural Born Killers and Shoot 'Em Up, with plenty of shots using quick zooms and pans, split screens and onscreen text and graphics. But the gimmicky facade doesn't hide the fact that the screenwriting is witless, lazy and unfunny and the performances weak. Movies don't get much more "did it for the paycheck" than this.
On top of brazenly insisting on inhabiting a world where reality is essentially unwelcome and frowned upon, High Voltage also ups the ante for mainstream film in terms of misogynistic portrayals of women. There is not a single redeeming female character in the movie. Co-star Amy Smart surely cannot sink any lower (and this is an actress who was in Starsky And Hutch, for God's sake!) than returning to play Chelios' girlfriend who is now a stripper and spends most of the movie half dressed. One scene has her and Chelios having sex in front of thousands of people at the Hollywood Park horse track to generate friction to keep his heart going and the scene, with the couple's private parts pixellated out, goes on and on and on, with the filmmakers apparently pleased with themselves for topping a similar public sex scene from the first movie. Bai Ling has the second most "notable" female part and she exists merely to rant and rave and perpetuate an offensive Asian stereotype. Oh, and she plays a ho. And there's plenty of other ho's and strippers scattered throughout the movie to act as unintentional body shields during the many gunfights. In a particularly mind-blowing moment of bad taste we even see one get shot in her fake breasts and then freak out as the camera goes in for a close up of the silicone leaking out.
I'll throw a few other random ridiculous occurrences in the movie out there, just because I may not get to write about a movie this dumb ever again: characters randomly run into each other on several occasions within the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles, the police refuse to shoot their weapons at Statham's character on multiple occasions (even though he's wreaking havoc on the city and they get to within mere feet away from him), the soap opera-like twin brother of a character who died in the first movie conveniently shows up to save Chelios at a crucial moment and is afflicted with "Full Body Tourette's", a character is forced to slice his own nipples off, David Carradine shows up wearing terrible makeup looking like his Kung Fu character gone to seed and finally, there's also a bizarre Godzilla homage where Chelios and the bad guy face off while wearing cheesy rubber masks.
This movie was so bad I couldn't stop watching, which is the only reason I even gave it a half point out of ten. I kept waiting to see how much further they would push the envelope and the filmmakers just never let up - the violence was almost pornographic. Halfway through, I was struck by how much the movie resembled a Grand Theft Auto game - the central character, apparently incapable of incapacitating bodily injury, is driven to carry out non-stop acts of brutality and damn the consequences. As the credits rolled I was also struck by the fact the standard cast credits listed 65 actors while the "Stunt Players" credits clocked in at a whopping 117 people. Yes, I counted.
The final scene in the movie shows Chelios walking towards the camera, his body aflame like something out of Ghost Rider, and appropriately flipping the bird to the audience. Right back atcha, buddy, right back atcha.
Rating: 0.5/10