Lionsgate // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // September 8th, 2009
He was dead...but he got better.
In 2006, co-writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, delivered Crank, a relentlessly paced, cartoonish action picture about a Los Angeles hitman named Chev Chelios who, after being dosed by the Chinese mafia with a nasty little concoction called a "Beijing Cocktail," must keep his adrenal glands in constant overdrive in order to keep his heart pumping. Chelios defibrillates himself, pumps himself full of epinephrine, and goes out of his way to create mayhem, piss off cops, and get into fisticuffs and gunfights with gangsters as he hurtles toward revenge against the gangster who dosed him. Billed by Chelios himself as the story of the day he died, Crank wasn't necessarily ripe for a sequel. But that didn't stop Neveldine and Taylor from returning to the well for Crank 2: High Voltage.
The last time we saw hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham, The Transporter), he was bouncing off the pavement of an L.A. street, seemingly dead. But in the world of Crank, it's not as if something as minor as a fall from a moving helicopter (and a high altitude fistfight) could kill a dude like Chelios. Picking up moments after its predecessor, Crank 2: High Voltage opens with Chelios awakening from his fall while a group of Chinese organ thieves harvest his heart. Fitted with an Aviocor artificial heart that his doctor (Dwight Yoakam, Sling Blade) informs him has a 60-minute battery life, Chelios must track down gangster Johnny Vang (Art Hsu, Balls of Fury) if he wants to recover his original ticker. With his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart, Starship Troopers) in tow, he crosses paths with a colorful collection of scumbags in a low-rent bordello, a strip club, a race track, and a picket line of striking porn stars. Eventually, Chelios' quest leads him to the Triads gang leader (David Carradine, Kill Bill: Volume Two) who needs his heart for transplant. Asses will be kicked.
Crank 2: High Voltage has about as much substance as your average Limp Bizkit video, but that's beside the point. Crank was an unapologetic exercise in action-comedy style, a barely coherent collection of stunts, fights, plot absurdities, profanity-laced dialogue, and sex set at such a breakneck pace that it induced a kind of cinematic euphoria in the viewer. Not only did the movie not require you to think, it lulled you into shutting down your mind completely and just going with its loud, abrasive, and hyper-active flow. But even accepting the fact that the Crank series is an action-packed, vulgar, foul-mouthed, libidinous live-action cartoon, Crank 2 just doesn't quite work. And I say that as someone who mostly dug the original as disposable entertainment in the ADHD-riddled 21st century. A huge part of the problem is that, as funky-fresh as Crank was back in 2006, its 87 minutes was about all that was necessary...or tolerable. Crank 2 comes across as the worst sort of unnecessary rehash, aping its predecessor's style while trying to ramp up the self-conscious absurdity even though Crank had already discovered the line at which an audience can no longer suspend disbelief, urinated on it, and had run with gleeful abandon a hundred yards past it. I spent 95 minutes trying to settle into Crank 2's frenetic rhythm, but just couldn't manage it. By the end, I realized that the problem was I'd already taken this ride once before and its fleeting thrill was gone.
On the plus side, Jason Statham is entertaining as always, merging action star bona fides with working class grit and genuinely sharp comic timing. His presence alone would make the movie worth seeing on rental except that the material so often fails him. When, in an effort to charge his artificial heart, Chelios hooks jumper cables to his nipple and tongue, or does the nasty with Eve in the middle of a racetrack with horses galloping overhead and a crowd of gamblers cheering, it all seems forced, derivative, and a waste of Statham's talents and considerable screen presence. The second of the movie's joys is the return of Dwight Yoakam as Chelios' hedonistic, amoral friend and medical adviser, Doc Miles. Yoakam plays the slimy doctor with a fast-talking but easy-going demeanor that makes his navigation of the story's ridiculously implausible exposition (why would Chinese organ thieves install an artificial heart in a deadly hitman after ripping off his real one?) seem like a piece of cake. In a movie that just wants to get on with the action mayhem, Yoakam handles nearly all of the plot set-up and he does so with a maximum of wit and sleazy charm. I'm not sure how Doc Miles' screen time in Crank 2 compares with the original, but it felt like he was in the sequel a lot less -- and I missed him during his long absences. The rest of the cast -- including Amy Smart and David Carradine -- is largely wasted.
It should come as no surprise that Crank 2: High Voltage looks great on Blu-ray. Detail is superb throughout, with close-ups revealing every nook, cranny, pore, and hair on the actors' faces. Colors aren't accurate, but they weren't meant to be. The hyper-saturated image sports vivid colors, inky blacks, and bright whites. Grain is only noticeable when it's intentionally used for a stylized look. Audio comes in a rip-roaring DTS-HD lossless mix in full 7.1 surround. I'm sure the track would handle quiet moments of tender drama with aplomb if the movie had any, but the flick is wall-to-wall noise. The mix delivers tight midrange, crisp highs, and gobs of wall-shaking LFE.
In addition to the feature, this dual-layered Blu-ray disc comes with a few interesting extras. A commentary by Taylor and Neveldine can be viewed in either high voltage or traditional mode. The former is a video commentary that allows us to watch the duo sitting on a couch and having a few beers while the feature is presented in an inset picture-in-picture window. The latter is the same commentary presented as a standard audio-only feature. Making Crank 2 (51:23) is a thoroughly entertaining and informative two-part making-of documentary. I enjoyed it more than the feature. "Crank 2: Take 2" (4:03) is a continuity errors reel that points out places in the final film where cameras, crew members, and other errors found their way into the final film because of Taylor and Neveldine's loose and fast-paced shooting style. "Wrap Party Gag Reel" (3:26) is a collection of outtakes assembled for the cast and crew's amusement at the wrap party. There's also a theatrical trailer for the film. An LG-Live (Lionsgate's version of BD-Live) feature gives you the option of integrating local time and temperature displays as well as a news ticker with Lions Gate release information into the movie's main menu. It can also be set up with Twitter and Facebook information so your network-enabled player will automatically update your social networking accounts any time you watch an LG-Live capable Lions Gate movie. There are also downloadable ringtones and wallpapers for your cell phone. Finally, the keepcase contains a DVD-ROM with a downloadable digital copy of the movie.
I wanted to like Crank 2: High Voltage. I wanted it to be wicked-fun escapist entertainment. Instead, it has all of Crank's Adult Attention Deficit Disorder and none of its novel charm. The movie looks and sounds superb in high definition, though.
Guilty as charged.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Gag Reel
* Digital Copy
* Official Site