Thursday, May 17, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Crank (2006)

I don't listen to the podcast How Did This Get Made? all that often, but I had to give the recent Birdemic discussion a whirl, and that rolled me into the discussion of 2006's Crank, a movie I had absolutely no interest in at the time of its release.

HDTGM covers movies they cannot believe were put together (see: last year's The Smurfs), but it also covers movies that the crew (all working in the industry) cannot believe happened to get made in the studio system for their sheer audacity (read: awesomeness).  During the hour-long podcast covering Crank and its sequel, they kept referring back to elements of the films that I couldn't believe had made it into a movie in wide release (maybe in the mid-90's, but no so much today in this era of watered down, PG-13, aim-it-at-15-year-olds homogeneity).

I have to say, from a certain perspective, Crank does not disappoint.

Its a very, very silly movie, self-aware of its absurdity and plays more like a high octane adventure comedy than anything else.  I'm not much of a Statham fan (or I wasn't until this evening), but his straight-faced, single-mindedness has an almost Parker-like aspect of amoralism that I couldn't help but find charming.

Look, this movie is a hard, hard R, and it makes certain to earn that R in every scene.  And, no, I didn't find every scene funny or even terribly inspired, but the movie has its moments.

Basically:  Statham plays a hitman who has done a job and now there's retribution.  Rather than kill him outright, our villains have injected him with a poison that is slowly killing him.  The only way he can counteract the toxin is to keep moving, and keep his heart going with adrenaline.  Which he does, by either keeping himself inspired/ excited or by consuming just piles and piles of pharmaceuticals.

The stunts, scenarios, and interactions between Statham as Chev Chelios and the city of Los Angeles as he cuts a Godzilla-like path through the town in pursuit of both vengeance and catching up with his lady friend before he expires, is an endless stream of crazy set-ups and action sequences worth the price of admission.

That said, the movie is made from a not-exactly PC perspective, that can often leave you feeling like a couple of 13 year old boys with camcorders were behind the movie, so...  at best this flick is going to work for me as a guilty pleasure.  I dunno.  I hate to say "it was great" when part of its humor is absolutely knowing exploitation that sometimes works on a certain meta-level, and other times: nope, that's just making me uncomfortable.  Which is sort of the point, in which case the directors succeeded, but...

It's complicated.

Anyhow, the movie is short and fast enough that its a decent thrill-ride, and I think a lot of what these guys did was often clever and smart and showed the kind of cajones we don't see much in action films these days.  Their camera and editing work, all of which feels adapted not just to the material and feel but as a natural use of the technology as part of the storytelling - is impressive and likely is even now getting ripped off left and right in better commercials for energy drinks, everywhere.

And, hey, they  finally got me to like Statham!  That's something (I'd previously seen maybe 6 Statham movies).  So, I dunno.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to seek out the sequel,, because I totally am.  I've heard its even kookier.

And this one had the best use of a Buick Riviera I've seen in a long time.


picky said...

Most of his movies operate in this sort of odd half comedic/half serious action movie space. And I am totally 100% ok with that as I love Statham. In one of the Transporter movies he's surrounded by like 8 guys with nun chuks and pipes, and he kicks everyone's ass. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, but it was also pretty amazing.

I love a fun action flick, and this one fits the bill perfectly.

The League said...

I wasn't a fan of the Guy Ritchie movies, or The Bank Job. I did like parts of Deathrace, but mostly Joan Allen just chewing scenery as a cartoon villain. But this finally makes Statham make sense to me. As you say, its ridiculous and not to be taken seriously. At all. And so its good, R-rated wackiness.

As my brother would say "they really swung for the fences". And when you do that, not everything works, but when it does, its pretty great.

JAL said...

It took me a while to get around to watching this, despite the positive things I'd heard about it. It was quite fun.

If the first felt like it was made by 13 year olds, the second definately will feel like it's made by 17 year olds.

The League said...

I am watching the sequel and one of your favorites, "Punisher: War Zone" in my "violent stuff I missed in the theater" tour.

Jake Shore said...

I've never watched the whole thing, but I think I caught the last couple minutes where he's falling from 30,000ft. and calls to leave his girlfriend a message before he splats onto a city street. OK fine.

Then I heard there was a sequel. How does that work?

The League said...

I'd say that's a spoiler, but, really... the movie can take it.

The answer is: I have no idea, but given the absurdity of the first movie, if he gets up and dusts himself off in the first scene of the sequel, I'll just roll with it.

JAL said...

"Punisher: War Zone" is a total treat.

Simon MacDonald said...

Ug, I know what you mean. While watching this I alternated between laughing and feeling very uncomfortable. I actually do like Statham in other roles much better than Crank. For instance his turn as "Handsome" Rob in the remake of The Italian Job was quite funny.