Film Reviews

Crank: High Voltage

A glue-huffing variant on the gimmick-noir D.O.A., 2006’s Crank was a riotous demonstration of the actionvore’s dilemma: The harsher the swill you consume — “swill” in this case meaning an AYCE strip-bar lunch buffet of mindless splatter, bone-jarring crashes, and beyond-gratuitous T&A — the harder it is to get high. The second time around, squinting at a bar they set for skull-busting dementia, writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor aim for nothing less than permanent synaptic damage. The heart that served Jason Statham’s indestructible Chev Chelios so well in the original is literally yanked from his chest and plugged into a priapic Triad gang lord — David Carradine as Poon Dong. (The buckteeth are a classy touch.) That leaves Chev to jump-start his cost-cutter synthetic heart with bigger, gnarlier jolts of electricity as he chases down his ticker: jumper cables to the tongue, Taser to the nut sack, high-voltage towers, etc. The diminishing returns of shock value are the movie’s built-in joke, and it would be a lot funnier without the directors’ unforgivably bratty post-sexist/post-racist/post-human showboating: It’s a 25-way tie as to which of the women characters (including Amy Smart’s inexplicably loyal girlfriend) is written, treated, and photographed with the most contempt. At its most delirious, though, this flick is the Gremlins 2 of action cinema, ready to split its own seams at any moment with chat-show parodies, meta-manic videogame interludes, and Tex Avery-style bloodshed. Call it the most expensive Troma movie ever made, with the Lloyd Kaufman cameo to prove it.

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Jim Ridley
Contact: Jim Ridley