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: Movie Review - Crank High Voltage
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Jan 7th 2010
Excess can be funny. The first "Crank" seemed to understand the "can" in that sentence and tried to think of crazier and more inventive situations to put its protagonist in -- after all, the poison he'd been injected with would cause a cardiac arrest unless he kept it beating fast, to the point of having to dance inside a cab to prevent it from slowing down.
In this sequel, "Crank High Voltage", writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor prove they don't really understand what made their previous movie so funny. It wasn't just the excess and the parody of Jason Statham's tough guy image -- it was the inventiveness. "Crank" was surprisingly well-written for its premise, and turned out to be an excellent comedy thanks to that.
In "High Voltage", however, Neveldine and Taylor simply go for excess, as if that alone is capable of making the audience laugh. Not only they recycle scenes from "Crank" -- like the classic sex scene -- for most of the movie they fail to come up with funny and unexpected situations like in the first film.
The sequel picks up right where "Crank" left off, with Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) unsurprisingly surviving the fall from the helicopter and being kidnapped by the Triads, who remove his heart and replace it with an artificial one. When Chelios escapes, he goes after his heart, but must keep his artificial heart electrically charged -- which, of course, means doing stuff like holding power cables and tasering himself.
The first "Crank" has a number of scenes that, thanks to their politically incorrect creativity, come to mind instantly -- like the dance inside a cab, the sex scene, Jason Statham running down the street with a massive erection -- and all of those were a direct consequence of Chev Chelios' condition -- having to keep his heart beating as fast as possible all the time. From the beginning of the movie to the end, his mind was never off this objective.
"High Voltage" feels like a step down, since Chelios' artificial heart has an internal battery that lasts for an hour until it needs to be charged -- whereas a matter of seconds resting could mean Chelios' death in the previous film. For this reason, Neveldine and Taylor need to come up with situations that are not directly related to the premise, and the slower pace causes the directors to let their scenes stretch way beyond their comedic potential.
A good example is the strip club scene, where Neveldine and Taylor focus on several naked women dancing like they're expecting us to laugh at their blatant, satiric misogyny -- something the previous movie also had, but didn't abuse. And then Chelios' girlfriend, Eve (played by Amy Smart), shows up as one of the strippers and starts dancing naked as well and then I wondered what the point of the scene was. It wasn't funny, the excess had already become boring and -- well, I guess the filmmakers' goal was quite simply to give the audience an erection.
That is basically the problem with "High Voltage". While the over-the-top style of the previous film was for comedy's sake, here the shock is for the shock's sake. Over the course of the film, Neveldine and Taylor try to make us laugh at how offensive they're being, but they try so hard (and for so long) it just becomes boring. I mean, I lost count of how many times naked boobies appear in the film. And in the meantime they forget to come up with new ideas that are actually funny. The filmmakers, not the boobies.
Another sign of this would be the way they recycle characters from the previous film. Kaylo (Efren Ramirez) returns as Venus, who has full-body tourette's -- which could be hilarious, but Neveldine and Taylor fail to see how. Eve returns as a stripper, only to reprise her sex scene, apparently. Another minor characters return, without achieving greater success either -- with the exception of an extra from the previous film who is here seen in a therapist's office.
The new characters are even worse, with the skinny prostitute Ria (Ling Bai) being simply annoying (although the filmmakers seem to recognize this, as they often make her suffer), and Johnny Vang and El Huron are painfully dull.
The movie does have some inspired moments -- like the talk show where we get to see Billy Unger, in a hilarious appearance, playing Chelios as a young man (and which has the best line in the film, involving Ritalin), the way he uses a shotgun to extract answers from a guy and the moment he tries rubbing against people to create static electricity. But these tend to be the exception, since the rest of the film consists of overlong scenes that lose their shock and comedic potential way before they cut to another scene, like the pointless Godzilla-esque fight, the many shots of naked women with guns and the nipple-cutting punishment.
At least it's still funny to see Jason Statham playing with his own reputation, and the actor doesn't ever hold back, diving headfirst into every single ridiculous action he's forced to do. The beautiful Amy Smart, similarly, has no problems in wearing little to no clothes throughout the entire film, and she has her moments. And would you believe the extremely old Poon Dong is played by the late David Carradine?
Hyperkinetic, over-the-top and directed by what seems like two squirrels on amphetamines. The first "Crank" was like that as well.
But it was funny.
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