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Crank 1 & 2

Crank (August 17/06)

Although it can't quite sustain its high-concept premise for the entirety of its 83 minutes, Crank is nevertheless an engaging and thoroughly over-the-top thriller that almost feels like a throwback to the ultra-violent action flicks of yore (ie there's a sequence in which the hero uses a dead body as a human shield). Jason Statham stars as Chev Chelios, a tough-as-nails hitman who wakes up one morning to discover that he's been injected with a deadly poison by a bitter rival (Jose Pablo Cantillo). After learning that he can slow the poison's progress by keeping his heart rate elevated, Chev engages in one outrageous activity after another (ie he drives a car through a crowded mall). Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor - who also wrote the movie's screenplay - infuse the proceedings with a jittery, wildly overcranked (no pun intended) sensibility that admittedly takes a while to get used to but certainly reflects the mindset of the central character. Crank establishes itself as an in-your-face, gleefully mindless popcorn flick right from the get-go, as Neveldine and Taylor consistently emphasize extreme style over substance and pepper the movie with a whole host of distinctly cartoonish elements (ie the outside of a building pulses as Chev takes on a dozen gangbangers within). Statham's energetic, go-for-broke performance proves impossible to resist, with the actor effectively avoiding the temptation to turn his character into a flat-out cartoon. And although the exceedingly thin storyline eventually becomes slightly more noticeable than one might've liked, there are certainly more than enough elements within Crank to warrant a hearty recommendation (the film's absurd conclusion has to be seen to be believed).

out of

Crank: High Voltage (November 7/09)

Jason Statham's Chev Chelios returns in this sequel to 2006's gleefully over-the-top Crank, with the film following Chelios as he embarks on yet another propulsive killing spree after goons steal his heart and leave him with an artificial ticker that requires an almost constant supply of electricity (which, of course, forces the erstwhile hitman to seek out charges from increasingly unusual sources). There's little doubt that Crank: High Voltage primarily feels like a natural extension of the cartoonish world established by the original film, as directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor pummel the viewer with aggressively frenetic visuals that are mirrored in the movie's myriad of similarly over-the-top attributes - from the rapid-fire editing to the pervasively shaky camerawork to the unapologetically broad performances. And although Statham's expectedly (and effortlessly) compelling work as the increasingly unhinged central character is generally impossible to resist, Crank: High Voltage's relentlessly slick sensibilities ensure that it remains oddly uninvolving for the duration of its running time (ie the movie feels more like a 96 minute trailer than an actual film). The inclusion of a few admittedly engaging sequences - ie a flashback featuring a young Chev Chelios and his mother on a talk show - effectively elevates the proceedings to a level beyond that of a typically mindless actioner, and while the movie's low-rent, shot-on-digital look proves a consistent distraction, Crank: High Voltage ultimately lives up to its place as an agreeable companion piece to its admittedly superior predecessor.

out of

© David Nusair