Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Efren Ramirez, Julanne Chidi Hill, Reno Wilson, Keone Young, Art Hsu, Joseph Julian Soria, Bai Ling, Clifton Collins Jr., David Carradine, Corey Haim, Geri Halliwell, Billy Unger, John de Lancie, Jenna Haze, Ron Jeremy
Written by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
MPAA Rating: R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language
Running Time: 96
Date: 04/16/2009

Crank 2: High Voltage (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Riled at Heart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At one point in the first ten minutes of this sequel, Crank 2: High Voltage, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) wakes up, leans forward and watches incredulously as someone performs heart surgery on him. Rather than being shocked, or racked with pain, he merely looks annoyed. Later that same scene, a guy drops cigarette ashes into his chest cavity. Does any of this stop Chev from being a super badass adrenaline machine? Not on your life.

In the first Crank (2006), hired killer Chev is shot full of a lethal Chinese drug, and the only way to beat it is to keep his adrenaline going, which he does for 87 minutes.

In the new one, a 100 year-old Chinese crime lord, Poon Dong (David Carradine), decides that he could use a heart as strong as Chev's, so he has arranged to steal it. In its place -- in Chev's chest cavity -- is now an artificial heart that requires constant charging and/or jolting. At first, Chev has a battery pack with a bar of lights to let him know how he's doing, but that gets smashed in the first car crash (less than 20 minutes in), so he's pretty much on his own after that.

His doctor friend, Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam), occasionally offers advice over the phone, such as charging the heart by creating static electricity (rubbing up against strangers or having sex in public). Chev's ultimate goal is to find his old heart, get to the doc, and have everything put right again. Meanwhile, however, a Hispanic gangster (Clifton Collins Jr.) is looking for revenge for some of the stuff Chev did in the last film.

The film runs 95 minutes total, but the action covers only 80 minutes (the 15-minute long credits include clips of a kind of epilogue, plus outtakes). It moves fast and straight and mainly stays on the road; it's much cleaner than several of this summer's more expensive action films. Basically the co-writers and co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor sneer at any kind of rules, decorum or morality. Anything goes, as long as it's within the realm of exploitation-level "B" moviemaking.

So during Chev's adventure, he crosses paths with all kinds of racial and sexual stereotypes. It's safe to say that this is one of the most misogynist films ever made; every female that appears onscreen is a sexual object of some sort (including cameos by several porn stars), and just about every other character besides Chev is also a stereotype. (Amy Smart returns in her role as Chev's girlfriend Eve, but here she's working as a stripper and has sex with him in public one more time.)

This makes for a mixed viewing experience. Should we let morals come in the way of enjoying a deliberately absurd slam-bang entertainment? Indeed, it's difficult to tell if the filmmakers are even in on the joke, or if they're purposely, willfully clueless. But when Chev and one of the bad guys, Johnny Vang (Art Hsu), come to blows underneath the buzzing wires of a power station, they temporarily turn into Godzilla-like giant monsters, complete with bad makeup and bad visual FX. It was at this point that I decided I could forgive Crank 2: High Voltage its transgressions and simply have a good time.

DVD Details: Lionsgate has released an excellent 2-disc DVD set with a digital copy of the film on the second disc. On the first, there's a long making-of documentary and a commentary track with the writers/directors, but the best feature is the short Crank 2: Take 2, which exposes all the gaffes that were committed and left in the final cut.

Movies Unlimtied