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September 1, 2006 | Comments ()


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Metal Health Will Drive You Mad

Crank / Dustin Rowles

Film Reviews | September 1, 2006 | Comments ()


After one of the more disappointing blockbusters seasons in recent memory, the summer of 2006 actually seems to have saved its best for the waning month of August. M:i:III started things out well enough in May, but then for weeks all we got were movies that never came close to living up to their hype, like The Da Vinci Code; X-Men: The Last Stand; The Break-Up; Nacho Libre; Superman Returns; Miami Vice; The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift; You, Me and Dupree; Click; Scary Movie 4; and maybe the biggest disappointment this summer in relation to expectations: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. (I’d argue that Cars was the only summer release that actually surpassed expectations). But just when you began to give up on the summer of 2006, a few jewels snuck in during August, including the best comedy of the summer, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; the best horror film, The Descent; two great drinking flicks, Snakes on a Plane and Beerfest; one of the better dramas, The Illusionist; and probably the best film of the entire season, Little Miss Sunshine.

But Crank actually offers an appropriate ending to the 2006 summer season: It comes in with no expectations, no pretensions, no star wattage, zero character development, not an iota of intelligence, absolutely no fucking plot, and an originality quotient in the negative numbers. Yet, for a lack of better phraseology, Cranks kicks some sweet, sweet ass. No kidding. Just when you think you’re taking one for the movie-critic team, Jason Statham seemingly walks straight out of an amphetamine brothel and provides a cinematic high no less gratifying than Michael Hutchence’s final autoerotic seconds, squeezing every last bit of energy out of its premise and leaving you limp and gasping for air.

Shit gets started out right with some Quiet Riot (“Metal Health”) as the premise, which is about as ridiculous as learning that 40,000 Americans are in fantasy fishing leagues, is revealed: Chev Chelios (Statham) wakes up, sticks in a DVD, and discovers that the bad guy, Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantilla) has injected him with some synthetic Chinese poison called a Beijing cocktail. He’s got about an hour to live, and if his adrenaline levels fall at any point, the poison will attach itself to his blood and kill him, “like Shakespeare or some shit.” So, his mission is to ostensibly find Ricky and 187 the motherfucker and anyone else who stands in his way, all the while keeping his blood pumping via pharmaceuticals, both legal and illegal (cocaine, epinephrine, Red Bull, and nasal spray).

There’s really not a lot else to it, but first-time writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor keep the action coursing at a heart-stompingly absurd pace. Chelios engages the fuzz in a high-speed car chase through the mall, robs a convenience store (for the Red Bull), butchers a man’s hand off, and creates a hostage situation in an emergency room while wearing a hospital gown and sporting a mean erection.

That erection, of course, comes into play minutes later, when he arrives at his girlfriend Eve’s (Amy Smart) house to save her from thugs meant to torture and rape her. She thinks he’s a video game programmer, but after he sticks his hand in a waffle iron to keep his adrenaline going, she quickly learns otherwise. And for anyone only familiar with Smart from mindless, girl-next-door romantic comedies and her stint on “Felicity,” her ditzy vamp will kind of blow your mind here, especially when she engages Chelios in some laughably absurd sexcapades on a Chinatown sidewalk, up against a newspaper stall, and during an … uhm … unfulfilling car chase. Oh, and before I fail to mention it, Crank ain’t exactly for your average Nadine Strossen scholar; there’s enough rampant misogyny in the flick to revive the careers of Poison and Warrant, with enough left over to even bring back Trixter. In fact, the whole goddamn movie feels like a throwback action film from the Reagan administration, and the music thumps along like a giddy, period-appropriate Les Claypool bass line. (And there’s none of that bullshit pansy rock that dominated the VMAs last night — who the hell knew that the Gin Blossoms would have such a pervasive influence on today’s MTV rock bands?)

All in all, no self-respecting critic would admit that Crank was any damn good, but it sure beats the hell out of most of this summer’s self-important blockbusters. It lacks the artistic merits of a movie like Miami Vice, but it’s a helluva lot more fun to watch. And besides, what other flick this summer features bit parts from Glen Howerton (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), Dwight Yoakum, Francis Capra (“Veronica Mars”) and Napoleon Dynamite’s Pedro (Efren Ramirez) as a cross-dresser (!) who works the rolling pin like a pair of nunchucks?! That right there, folks, is worth the price of admission alone.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in a blue house with his wife in a hippie colony/college town in upstate New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.



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