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Sunday, September 03, 2006


My dreams of celebrity have been dashed once again. I subscribe to the weekly newsletter from the Essex Cinemas (which you can do as well by going to http://essexcinemas.com/) and ever since I got wind that a movie called Crank was opening this past Friday I was sure some brilliant indie director had seen the light and decided to make a movie about moi. It’s not as if I haven’t been called a ‘crank’ before. Actually, at last count it was 971 times that I’m aware of, if you add in those that were included as part of larger expletive-ridden phrase. Unfortunately, it turned out that this Crank was about some guy with health problems. Immediate health problems.

Crank is the tale of Chev Chelios, played with a delicious sense of constipated
anger by Jason Stratham (The Transporter and The Transporter 2), a British hunk who proves that not all actors from the United Kingdom are masters of elegance and sophistication. Stratham is more of the Rambo school of acting, grunting his lines and letting his bullets do the talking, but then that is really all that is required of him here, and it is what his fan base expects.

Anyway, Crank opens with Chelios waking up in bed, dying. He staggers to his television and inserts a DVD because that is what all people having a heart attack feel compelled to do in their last moment and he learns that he has been fatally injected with the “Beijing Cocktail” that will slow his heart rate and will literally make it come to a grinding halt within the next few minutes. All this is revenge for his assassinating a drug boss of a rival gang of the one who employed him as a hit man. Now it would seem to any rational adult (and I stress the adult part because this film, while rated R and rightly so, is definitely written for a young male audience not looking for logic or strong plot details) that bringing in a whole crew to film a DVD of Chelios being knocked unconscious and then being injected with the poison seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to kill someone the bad guys want offed. Why not just put a bullet in his head and be done with it? Oh wait, then there would be no movie. Never mind.

Naturally, our hero Chelios, the mass murdering but tasty looking side of beef that he is, is no ordinary man. He realizes quickly that as long as he keeps his adrenaline pumping his heart rate will accelerate and he will keep going, so Crank steps up and becomes Speed, but without Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, or a bus. I guess we can consider Chelios the bus, but without the personality.

From this point, we are treated to the remaining 70 plus minutes of this brief 83
minute long movie as one long action sequence, with Chelios inventing new ways to break laws, damage public property, avoid the cops and gangs out to get him, shooting as many people as he can, stealing drugs from a hospital, hijacking a police motorcycle, ingesting as many illegal substances as a human can withstand, and hacking body parts off of living enemies. In other words, it is just another day for a hit man at work.

All of this is, of course, in the pursuit of the man responsible for poisoning him, who Chelios thinks will have an antidote. Along the way, he does pause long enough to rendezvous with his girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart; Peaceful Warrior), who until now has believed he was a video tape editor. Eve is a few clowns short of a circus to be sure, and it takes a couple of dead bodies raining down on her before she grasps that Chelios is telling the truth, then, being the swell gal she is, she succumbs to him sexually in the middle of the Chinatown marketplace in downtown LA in the middle of the day, with hundreds of onlookers crowded around. Yep. After he grasps the idea that sex is what he needs to keep that old adrenaline raging he practically rapes her, but then, in some typical male fantasy, she surrenders and ends up screaming for him to have his way with her regardless of the time and place. From the audience, it just looked like a cheap way to exploit both Stratham and Smart since they are in essence shooting a raunchy soft core porn scene with a thundering crowd of extras cheering them on. As a woman, I have to say that this scene took me completely out of the preposterous plot because it was so obviously unnecessary. It wasn’t because I thought of it as “pornography” but suddenly I found myself wondering how Amy Smart, the actress, felt standing around naked between takes with a few hundred Chinese people, including children, watching her. Any time something takes you out of the movie and into the production of it while you are simultaneously watching the movie in progress, there’s definitely something wrong.

There were some funny bits throughout Crank, and I give writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor credit for having the idea of getting Chelios to rob a local convenience store, but not for the money, only for its’ Red Bull and other high energy drinks. They also included an off-the-cuff bit about a Middle-Eastern cab driver who Chelios throws out of his taxi, yelling "Al Qaeda! Al Qaeda!" thus inciting a mob of everyday civilians into a frenzied attack on the turbaned driver as Chelios steals the cab while everyone is distracted. Okay, I’ll admit it. I laughed even if it was politically incorrect to do so. Hey, it was funny.

Most of Crank though made me cranky and I got crankier as time wore on. The movie was basically nothing more than a string of short scenes punctuated by jerking, frenetic close-ups created by hand-held cameras. It reminded me of the CSI television shows. There were even occasional zoom-in “x-rays” on Chelios’ beating heart, which was completely unnecessary and kind of gross. I’d prefer not to think of internal organs while eating my popcorn, thank you.

Crank would have made a better video game than movie, and I’ve been told by a few teenage
boys since seeing it that it seemed to them that this already was a rip-off of the Grand Theft Auto game, but that’s only second-hand information, so take that for what you will. Whatever it is, game or movie, one thing is certain. Crank is definitely a testosterone-fueled fantasy for the teenage guy (or those guys who still live their teens at least in their minds). It’s got guns, drugs, nudity, sex, more guns, explosions, guns, knives, even more drugs, way more guns, and a gang war finale. What more could a guy ask for?

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