Review: Crank

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Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is ready to retire from his career as a mob hit man in order to settle down with Eve (Amy Smart), his clueless girlfriend who has no idea about his unseemly line of work. In fact, just last night, this previously-callous contract killer actually proved to himself that he was through with the business when he uncharacteristically allowed his targeted mark to escape unscathed.

But as bad luck would have it, today, a very groggy Chev has received an explanatory wake-up call from Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo), a thug from a competing, West Coast crime syndicate. It seems that, while asleep, Chev was injected with a gradually-activating Beijing cocktail comprised of poisons certain to stop his heart in an hour unless he figures out a way to prevent his ticker from grinding to a stop.

The ailing assassin contacts his primary care physician (Dwight Yoakum) who snap diagnoses the condition over the phone and surmises that his patient’s only hope rests with keeping adrenaline coursing through his veins by any means necessary. So, with the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, Chevy proceeds to ingest whatever stimulants he can get his hands on, while making the most of what might be his last minutes on Earth. Crisscrossing Los Angeles like a madman on a mission, he takes no prisoners, seeking vengeance and an antidote as he tries to save his naïve moll from the clutches of his tormentors.

With a manic sense of urgency most reminiscent of Speed (1994), Crank is a similarly-premised, high-octane, edge-of-your-seat, roller coaster ride. However, instead of a careening bus rigged to explode if allowed to slow down, here we have a human who must maintain a certain pulse-rate or perish. The movie marks the praiseworthy debut of Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, creative collaborators who share both the scriptwriting and directing credits.

And it features the stellar stunt work of martial arts maven Jason Statham, who enjoys his best role since The Transporter (202), a flick which made this critic’s Ten Best List. Be forewarned, however, this ethically-challenged outing ups the ante not only in terms of outrageously gruesome gore and politically-incorrect antics, but also when it comes to indulging in gratuitous nudity, sexuality, and profanity.

That being said, Crank is nothing if it is not original, compelling and relentless, as it proceeds to assault the senses tirelessly with wave after wave of momentum-building intensity. Whether jabbing himself with an EpiPen, snorting nasal sprays up both nostrils, having sex on a crowded street in Chinatown, or deliberately scalding his own arm in a waffle iron to jumpstart his heart, Chev never runs out of inventive ways to stay alive or to keep the audience riveted.

Plus, the production benefits immeasurably from its constantly clever dialogue and a litany of humorous asides which serve to lighten the more macabre aspects of this attention-deficit adventure designed with the Joystick Generation in mind. For better or worse, the cinematic equivalent of crack.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for graphic carnality, frequent female frontal and male posterior nudity, pervasive profanity, ethnic slurs, incessant drug use, gruesome sadism and eroticized violence.
Running time: 83 minutes. Studio: Lions Gate Films.

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