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Shock Value: High Voltage cranks it up 

click to enlarge Shock me baby...all night long.
  • Shock me baby...all night long.
Shock me baby...all night long.
Crank: High Voltage is an adrenalized rollercoaster ride presented in overtly stylized hyper-surrealism. It's what the remakes of Death Race and Fast and Furious strived to be.

The original Crank lifted its concept from the classic D.O.A. starring Edmund O'Brien (re-made later with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan). The hitman, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), mysteriously poisoned by a "Beijing Cocktail," races against time to find his perpetrators. If Chev's heart rate slowed down he'd croak. To keep his adrenaline up, he was off and running, punching anyone in his path.

This sequel takes up the storyline when Chev falls from a helicopter. After splattering onto pavement, he is literally scooped up by some evil Chinese gangsters who want to harvest his super organs. To keep him alive they transplant a battery powered heart that needs a charge every hour or so. When they start to harvest Chelios' well-endowed man part, he spurs back to life and the pummeling begins. He spends the rest of the film repeatdly jump-starting his heart any way possible.


Crank has an insult for everyone. The racial slurs fly, the F-bomb is dropped more than in Glengarry Glen Ross and The Sopranos combined. I have never seen so many F-words spelled out in subtitles. There's also an avalanche of extremely bad jokes centered on genitalia, nipples and anuses.

CHV's action is all about tricks; the jumpy camera-work, grainy fish-eye lens, dizzying 360-degrees shots, kooky use of cutting to animated diagrams to help explain what's going on. There's even an homage to Godzilla movies when Chelios and gangster Vang become slow-moving monsters battling on a stage of miniatures. Along with a Transporter in-joke you get car chases, bullets flying, strippers, hookers in hot pants and high heels, an all-black gay biker S&M club and Corey Haim in a mullet...what else do you want?

CHV is so immersed in gimmicks that it resembles one long music video. Turns out the musical soundtrack was provided by none other that Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas fame.

Everyone is back even if they died in the first one. Venus (Efren Ramirez of Napoleon Dynamite) as an out-of-costume transvestite with "full body Tourette's Syndrome" (like that's real). Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) returns only as a life-supported head (as in The Brain That Wouldn't Die). Amy Smart returns as Eve, Chelios' girlfriend, now inexplicably a stripper; she spends a lot of time with duct-taped X's on her nipples. And Dwight Yoakum reprises his role as the sleazy Doc, dishing out nuggets of cursing medical advice for Chev over the phone while ridiculing his "slut." A cameo by David Carradine playing a blithering Chinese drug lord is just weird.

You gotta give credit to directors Mark Nedveldine and Brian Taylor (responsible for the first Crank) as they truly pulled out all the stops. CHV is a mixed bag of very revolting tricks.

The ending runs through the credits as more of the "story" is told. I don't pretend to know what the filmmakers were thinking, but it seems that they just want to come from left field, hitting the audience with everything but the kitchen sink. It's a whirlwind of psychedelic torrents. And Crank High Voltage is wrong on every level. Yet, somehow, on some level, it works.

Crank: High Voltage ★★★✩✩
Starring: Jason Statham, Dwight Yoakum, Bai Ling, Clifton Collins Jr., Amy Smart. Directed by Mark Nedveldine and Brian Taylor

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