When Eric asked me to contribute an overlooked movie to scene-stealers.com, I immediately began compiling a list of my favorite and under or completely unappreciated films of the last 15 years. Would I finally get to tackle the overlooked pulp of Christopher McQuarrie’s “The Way of The Gun”? Or maybe I could gush about Ewan McGregor’s performance in “Down With Love.” Or discuss “The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford,” a movie that I’m sure would have won quite a few statues –– if it had come out any other year than 2007, the year that brought us “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood.”
Ultimately, there’s only one movie I could write about for my first overlooked movie. Only one that is so divisive, instantly written-off and absolutely convention-shattering: “Crank 2: High Voltage.”
Few movies are more pigeon-holed than Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s follow-up to the original “Crank.” The premise of the first one revolved around Chev Chelios, super assassin (played by Jason Statham), having to keep his body adrenalized in order to stave off the effects of a deadly poison. It was an excuse to put Chev through increasingly absurd and gratuitous situations that culminated in the protagonist falling out of a helicopter to his death.
But for all the dumb fun “Crank” had, it never extended too far past standard action movie fare. The movie had its moments, such as Statham and leading lady Amy Smart’s public sex scene in front of some school children, but still clung to too many conventions.
“Crank 2,” however, follows no formula, not even vaguely. Beginning right where the first movie ended, Chev finishes his uncontrolled descent by bouncing off the hood of a car, then splatting into the foreground. Immediately, a van full of Chinese gangsters pulls up, scoops the flattened assassin off the ground with a snow shovel and throws him into the back.
Rather than dwell on the fact that a man fell 14,000 feet from a helicopter and lived, “Crank 2″ rolls with it and by doing so, places the movie in a world where anything is plausible. And if you think about it, all great action movies do this.
Chev wakes up in a hospital while his heart is being removed and replaced with an artificial one. Naturally, he kills everyone involved and makes his escape. He sets out to find his “strawberry tart” and kill whomever took it, but there’s a catch. The battery to his artificial heart has to be regularly charged or else he dies and there we have it folks, our driving action.
What follows is a vulgar, violent and hilarious chase across Los Angeles as Chev kills his way through a whorehouse, has shootout in a strip club, has sex in the middle of a horse track, engages in a Godzilla-like, low-rent climactic battle.
Neveldine and Taylor keep the pace of the movie skintight as its 195 min. runtime flies by, humorously pointing out how rapid-fire the plotting is by doing a nine-second flashforward during a chase scene. Mike Patton’s soundtrack is appropriately blistering for the chaos that takes place.
In addition to Statham’s wise-cracking, sociopathic main character, the rest of the movie’s world is occupied with equally ridiculous caricatures. Amy Smart’s Eve runs around nearly naked for most of the movie before thoroughly beating Corey Haim in one of his last roles. Dwight Yoakham steals every scene he’s in as Chev’s drunk, unlicensed doctor. Even the late David Carradine gets a few laughs as philandering crimelord Poon Dong.
Last week in my video review for “Kick-Ass,” I praised the movie for defying traditional action and comic book conventions for the first two thirds. It gave “Kick-Ass” an unpredictability that kept the story interesting despite a wooden protagonist and a familiar genre. But when the movie became every other Hollywood movie in its last real, it was all the harder to swallow because the majority of the movie had been so much fun.
“Crank 2: High Voltage” never does that. All the jokes play on one level or another, not a frame is wasted, which makes the movie a ride that is exceptionally easy to surrender yourself to. The movie ends in a definitive and chaotic way. Most importantly of all, it ends on its own terms.