Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE is every bit as offensive as you have heard that it is. The humor that permeates this film is more shock-value based than actual belly laughs. HIGH VOLTAGE is an episodic collection of WTF moments loosely strung together rather than a fully realized narrative. Like the first Crank, it is a mean-spirited project that wants you to like it. Unfortunately, the ugliness is too complete this time around.
The biggest problem with HIGH VOLTAGE is the sell that it has to do to explain the sequel. Jason Statham's Chev Chelios dies at the end of the original CRANK. He dies appropriately and unquestionably. There is no need for a sequel. Consequently, as HIGH VOLTAGE attempts to gain its footing, it forces a series of add-ons and patches to help the viewer make the jump. Oh, the flamboyant gay friend that Chelios used as a human bullet shield? Viola! That guy has a brother. Oh, bald-headed Verona? He has a brother too. And how did Chelios' girlfriend hook up with Corey Haim and become a stripper so fast? Oh, Chelios was out of commission for 3 months.
Suspension of disbelief is the biggest pill you will have to swallow while watching this sequel. Suspension of disbelief was merely a tranq dart to the glute in the first Crank; in this one it is a horse pill with no chaser.
What drives the silly plot architecture is the ridiculous premise that Chelios has a mechanical heart and needs to find his real heart or he is going to die. Chelios needs bursts of electricity to get from A to B to C. At times this is amusing. Generally, the method of storytelling does have a worthwhile effect. The completely frenetic editing and action throughout is a style that fits the plot perfectly and can be exciting to watch. But the film ultimately misses because Chelios is never humanized.
In the original CRANK, Chelios calls his girlfriend as he falls like lightning and tells her he loves her. It is a moment of sweetness before he bounces and splats. By the end of HIGH VOLTAGE, Chelios has gone full-sociopath. He has no idea who his girlfriend is and his behavior mirrors that of Jason or Michael Meyers. There is a thread of hope that he will get his heart back, but until the next film, Chev Chelios has lost all traces of his humanity.
Perhaps this is because he has no heart. When Chelios finally opens the box that supposedly contains his heart, PULP FICTION and THE REPO MAN are referenced with an unnamed/unseen item that elicits a response from the characters in the scene. In PULP FICTION, the response to the glowing item in the suitcase is one of awe. HIGH VOLTAGE counters with a response of repulsion and a pointed query as to why such an ugly item would be carried around.
There are all sorts of wisps of substance buoying this movie however. Video-game themes still run rampant. The CRANK franchise is begging the video game industry to make a GRAND THEFT AUTO out of it. Porn-stars picket for higher wages, a scene which contributes to the amalgamation of mainstream pornography with mainstream film. The Godzilla-esque fight at the power factory suggests that Crank 2 is now how America is making its monster movies. All of these elements are presented with varied antagonists regularly screaming "F-YOU, CHELIOS!" That statement is a constant reminder throughout the film how much Statham's character is hated. There is even a scene that slightly references NATURAL BORN KILLERS with a flashback to trashy television to explain why Chelios is such a complete jerk. High Voltage is a complete hodgepodge of pop-culture references on speed and taken to a hyper-nihilistic extreme. And it has the potential to serve as a touchstone for all over-the-top action films to come.
This film is a hard-R. Prepare to wince. In a protracted self-mutilation scene, the tension is almost too much. The film seems to want to hurt its viewer. It is so unrelentingly rough that by the end of the movie, the shotgun dipped in motor-oil sodomy scene at the beginning seems strangely innocent.
CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE is an ugly film. It is mean-spirited, and it knows it. It wears its ugliness like a badge and bludgeons all who watch it. When Statham/Chelios breaks the fourth wall and finally interacts with the audience, all he can do is flip you off, and I am sure he means it.