Julanne Chidi Hill
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Crank 2: High Voltage (2008)
22nd Oct 09
They’ve only gone and fackin’ stolen the Stath’s fackin’ pumper! Cunts!
Directors Neveldine and Taylor proudly make exploitation movies on above-par budgets that push the “R” rating to its limits : both Crank and Pathology were enjoyable high-concept thrillers amped up with explicit sex and violence and laced with bad-taste humour. Crank: High Voltage, a movie in which a Japanese hooker beats a fat guy’s balls with a bicycle while asserting “No fucky-sucky for you!”, just might be their crowning cinematic achievement. It offended many critics upon its theatrical release - usually a good sign that some fun is to be had - and just might be one of the most outrageous movies to ever get a wide mainstream release from a prominent studio.
Crank‘s hero Chev Chelios (a returning Jason Statham, in a career-best turn) is now the stuff of legend, particularly among the Triads. He survived the elaborate plunge at the end of Crank and gets his super-human heart stolen by sadistically grinning Chinese mobsters, a ridiculous artificial pumper put in its place during a surgical sequence that sets the outlandish tone for what is to come (a peeping Oriental lady at the scene lifts a sheet and notes that Chev is hung like a horse). This inspires a variation on Crank’s great action movie concept: this time, Chev has to keep his body electrically charged to stay alive while he races across Los Angeles in pursuit of his heart.
Insanely paced and cut and shot like everyone was on speed, complete with multiple cameras, crazy set-ups, “9 Seconds Later” captions and on-screen definitions of Cockney rhyming slang, Crank High Voltage practically defines the term “guilty pleasure”…though why should anyone feel guilty about enjoying something that’s this much fun? Neveldine and Taylor announce their own movie’s over the top trashiness from the very start via a TV anchorman who, with raised eyebrow, announces recent events in L.A. as being “implausible”, giving us a knowing straight-to-camera look just in case we missed the joke. Who wants subtlety anyway when you can have a hero who applies jump leads to his nipple and tongue and smugly mutters “You can keep that” to a guy who has just had a lubed-up shotgun shoved up his arsehole?
This sequel, even more so than its predecessor, revels in callous, casual death and random grossness, happy hurling vomit and blood at the camera lens and self-consciously (and hilariously) revelling in sexual and racial stereotypes. Bai Ling is astonishing as a skanky whore dismissed by Statham as being “Fuckin’ Cuntonese…I’d rather stick me dick in a blender!”. A jaw-dropping David Carradine - in one of his final movie roles - plays a pervy, weird old Triad boss named Poon Dong.
Political correctness is not just treated with utter disdain - it’s dragged out into the parking lot, shat on and then has its face shoved into Molly Sugden’s decaying pussy. See Jason Statham call two dog-walking gays “a pair of cunts”! See a prominent character suffer from “Full Body Tourettes” just for the sake of a cheap laugh! See a shrink recommend her patient having some “smelly snatch” rubbed in his face! And see a stripper having her fake tits bloodily blasted away during a riotous strip-club detour that also features a tattooed, mullet-sporting Corey Haim (!) in his finest movie role in 20 years!!!
The script relishes its own contrivances, which draw as much attention to themselves as the rock cameos (key members of Linkin Park, Tool and Nine Inch Nails show up for gratuitous appearances) or the restless style (split-screen, kooky subtitles, the words “Massive Homo Cunt” appearing on-screen in large letters). Characters featured in Crank turn out to have twin brothers, the plot keeps getting distracted by sleazy skits (including a porn actors strike featuring Ron Jeremy, among others) and at one point one of the stars literally pulls a phone out of her ass just because the narrative needs a cell phone to move to the next bit. The fourth cinematic wall is broken completely when an old lady - whom Chev has memorably rubbed up against to keep his ticker going - remarks that Chev looks an awful lot like that fella from the Transporter movies.
Amidst the chaos and the cameos - also look out for Lloyd Kaufman - there’s not an awful lot for Amy Smart to do as Chev’s returning girlfriend, except look hot and figure in a comic race-track sex scene featuring a close-up of a huge horse dick and pixellated human genitalia. Dwight Yoakum is very funny as Chev’s doctor pal, who lost his licence after an unfortunate vaginal-rejuvenation incident involving his wife. But it’s Statham’s show all the way. The guy has been a consistently engaging no-nonsense, retro-80’s action hero for years, but in this movie, he is absolutely hilarious as a pissed off, dead-pan protagonist who gets to indulge in the year’s finest movie swearing (“Bing fucking Crosby!”). The movie only ever stalls when he’s off screen.
Talking of stalling, the flick can’t quite sustain its own manic inventiveness all the way to the end. Some of the wilder detours don’t quite work. A flashback scene to a Jeremy Kyle-style trash TV chat show featuring a suitably hideous Geri Halliwell as Chev’s mum and some (deliberately?) rubbish Brit accents, isn’t as funny as it thinks it is. And an elaborate fight scene done in the style of old Japanese Godzilla movies, goes on too long with the vibes of a well intentioned gag that just fizzles out.
Pretty much everything else, however, is an absolute pleasure to behold. The violence is remarkably gruesome, with icky elbow-slicing, close-up nipple severing, a flogging with a Cat O’Nine Tails and a climactic moment in which the Stath kicks a living severed head into the sea. At it’s best the movie recalls less the uber-violent American action movies of the 80’s, and more the demented lunacy of Takashi Miike. It culminates with a rousing shoot-out featuring bikini babes with machine guns and a wonderful final shot that’s a literal middle finger straight to the audience. It just might be a work of genius.