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Unplug this
by Syd M
April 24, 2009 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
You may have noticed by now, Dear Readers, that I do not offend easily at the movies. I was offended by Crank: High Voltage. It's dumber than dumb, it's loud, it borders on the pornographic both in its sadistic violence and its violent sex, but...and stay with me if you aren't convinced yet...it's boringly repetitive and virtually unwatchable and demands attention only by being more of the above. It's a long 85 minutes, let me tell ya.

It made me reassess several of the lesser film efforts to which I have been less than kind over the years. Maybe they weren't so bad after all; at least they were not Crank: High Voltage.

It's about a man looking for his heart - literally. Three years ago (in Crank), Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), a hitman, survived being poisoned and then fell out of a helicopter. In Crank: High Voltage, he lands at last, and surprisingly (or not) survives the fall. As he lies splayed on the pavement, Chinese mobsters (using a shovel) scrape him up and haul him off.

Chelios' indestructible, poison-withstanding heart is removed and transplanted into an ailing Chinese mob boss named Poon Dong (David Carradine). For some reason, the mob docs keep Chelios alive by implanting him with an artificial heart. It's equipped with an external battery pack that requires frequent recharging. Thus Chelios must regularly electrocute himself with jumper cables, high-voltage power lines and Tasers. I'll confess it was the idiotic notion that a guy would have to defibrillate himself with jumper cables that drew me to Crank: High Voltage; I won't fall for that one again.

Did I mention the porno part? Turns out you can generate electricity to recharge your heart by having public sex on a racetrack, during a horse race, with a stripper named Eve (Amy Smart). I'm sure that scene was meant to operate on all kinds of subtle levels having to do with metaphoric hearts and the rejuvenating power of love and interpersonal sparks and bare-breasted souls and horse penises - you know, the kind of stuff that Byron and Shelley would have written about if they were going to make an action movie about a hitman looking for his heart. But Byron and Shelley, alas, did not make Crank: High Voltage. Neveldine/Taylor (a/k/a Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) did, and they bring a sledgehammer sensibility to the movie. If you are still watching after ten thumps, they hit you with another ten.

So Chelios goes off in search of his heart, zapping himself periodically, dodging bullets and laying waste to the greater Los Angeles area. In addition to the stripper, there are several hookers in Crank: High Voltage, notably Ria, played by Bai Ling, who is notable mostly because, although she is a celebrity best-known for wardrobe malfunctions, she keeps her private parts under wraps in the movie. The same cannot be said for the other women therein, who all lack clothing, and who, if they are not hookers or strippers, serve as harems to various Chinese Triads and South American mobsters. The mobsters all want Chelios dead.

I'll say this for Neveldine/Taylor, who wrote and directed Crank: High Voltage: They have a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, 85 percent of those ideas involve trying out different closeup camera angles of butts and boobs. The other 15 percent are more interesting, and include mixing animation, satire, riffs on Pulp Fiction and parodies of Kaiju (Japanese monster movies), talk shows and cheesy '50s sci-fi into the choppy-chop, bang-bang, rapid-fire sensory-overload action.

The movie is an equal-opportunity offender that features a great deal of diversity: Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, gay bikers, porn actors and the disabled are all depicted in broad stereotype meant to be maximally offensive. It was probably meant to be funny, too, but my funnybone was crushed early on by this movie, so I can't say for sure. There's also some dialogue in the movie, but about 80 percent of the words start with the letter F - which can work if the other 20 percent were written by, say, Tarantino, but they were not. Neveldine/Taylor are clearly pulp aficionados with Tarantino aspirations. They're smutty gutter tourists who aim, more than anything else, to shock and offend. They're like attention-seeking kids trying to see how much they can get away with. If you don't ignore them, they'll just keep doing it.

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