Crank is brilliant as it is stupid. Jason Statham, the bald-headed paradigm of badass masculinity, wreaks havoc on Los Angeles enacting every destructive impulse to ever rivet a gamer’s Mountain Dew-addled brain. The movie plays out like a video game would, opening with Atari bleeps and bloops and an 8-bit title, laying out its premise immediately: a mobster poisoned Jason so he goes out for revenge. He phones his laidback doctor who instructs him to stay alive by keeping his adrenaline up. In video game terms that means racking up points or collecting power-ups, which Jason effectively does. A mix of Time Crisis and Grand Theft Auto, stealing a cop’s motorcycle, breaking into a hospital for epinephrine and having public sex in Chinatown awards Jason with more adrenaline, and thus more time. One can imagine a little HEALTH guage filling with each thrust and each kill, as a timer rapidly counts down.
It’s bloody outrageous but oddly existential. Haven’t you ever wondered what you would do your last day alive? Jason has a tough time accepting his fate so he does what he can with his remaining life – mess everything up. He seizes the day! And several grams of coke as well. Drugs are consumed like air and water, or 1-Up mushrooms, so to speak, so that he may keep going. Hallucinations inevitably occur and, according to his warped state of mind, only the searing flesh of his hand in a waffle iron can snap him out of it. A peculiar episode happens late in the movie where he hears the voices of several characters from the movie, including his own, out of the mouth of an Asian businessman. Upon hearing his own voice come he asks “Who the hell are you?” Deep, man. It amuses me that Crank may harbor a rich philosophy.
Jason harbors a sweet girlfriend played by everygirl Amy Smart, who hiccups through his confession that he’s a mob hitman and not, as he led her to believe, the beefiest video game programmer alive. (Though I do know a pretty beefy L.A. video game programmer. Joe! Yo Joe! This is a shout out! A shout out to YOOUU!! We should get drinks when I come over there! Get drinks and watch Crank and play video games!! WOOO!) Jason’s and Amy’s relationship is thankfully kept out of the limelight, though I suppose there is a hint he’ll gain an heir when, post public coitus, she loses her birth control pills in the middle of an escape.
The action and chases are done pretty well with some decent gore and the cheapest green screen effects you’re likely to see this side of Superman. Cheesy and tongue-in-cheek, Crank plays more like a spoof than a full-on action movie with most of the tight 80+ minutes dedicated to Jason and his co-stars screaming some truly filthy dialogue at each other, full of “faggots”, “cocksuckers” and “motherfuckers.” Plus, Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite shows up as a gay sidekick whose brutal murder and subsequent corpse defiling almost makes up for… no, no, nevermind. No amount of defilement could quite make up for Napoleon Dynamite.
Back to Jason, his aerodynamic brow furrowed, heavy jaw half-clenched, he plows through the movie with a ferocious presence I can’t help but admire (and maybe, secretly desire. But don’t tell anybody). Since The Rock is stuck in Disney football movies and Vin Diesel’s off playing D&D the world should be thankful Jason Statham is around. Reputable thespians with whispy facial hair like Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey may take on the big superhero roles today but Jason Statham, a black belt Olympic diver, is a true swashbuckler who does his own stuntwork and knows real martial arts. With WAR out now and several more in the pipeline on his IMDB page it looks like he won’t burn out anytime soon.