Saturday, April 18, 2009

Crank: High Voltage Offers Adrenaline Fueled Fun

To dismiss Crank: High Voltage as just a simple sequel to the adrenaline-fueled, non-stop action film Crank would be doing serious injustice to the truly unique and fascinating film it is.

A lot of thoughts passed throughout my head during High Voltage. To give you an understanding of what type of film this is, hardly any of my thoughts had to do with whether main character Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) would find his heart he so desperately is seeking after. Instead, I was constantly wondering how the hell the director/writer combo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who are also responsible for the first Crank, would top a previous absurd but exhilarating scene with something more ludicrous.

Chelios, who was left for dead at the end of Crank, awakens only to find that his heart has been removed. Chelios must attempt to find and recover his heart while surviving long enough with the help of electric shocks that help energize the prosthetic heart inside of him.

In many ways, High Voltage is the strange bastard son of a French New Wave filmmaker like Jean-Luc Godard, who held the experimental and radical visual and editing style dear to heart and an action fiend like John Woo, whose over the top action sequences helped change the face of the genre. In simpler terms, the Crank series is this incredibly unique breed of filmmaking that almost shouldn’t work as well as it does. There haven’t been many films like this.

According to reports from last May, the film was being shot with cheaper HDV cameras to keep costs down. While being a smart economic maneuver, it also paid dividends stylistically. Neveldine and Taylor acquire this fresh style of guerilla filmmaking that gives High Voltage its own identity among the rest of the all action, little plot films. This recognizable and fresh feel is what separates the two Crank films from being standard fare.

Not much needs to be said about the cast. Jason Statham has sadly become one of the most typecasted actors of our generation as he can’t seem to burst out of the typical tough guy, high energy roles as seen in Crank and The Transporter. Both Amy Smart and Dwight Yoakam reprise their likeable roles as well. The most notable addition to the cast is cult star David Carradine, known for films such as Death Race 2000. Carradine plays the man behind the taking of Chelios’ heart, Poon Dong, and gives quite the funny and scene stealing performance.

The true element of High Voltage to feast on is of course the absurd and ridiculously over the top action and happenings. This film makes other recent action tour-de-forces like the Clive Owen led Shoot ‘Em Up, which featured a man delivering a baby during a gunfight, seem almost dull. Neveldine and Taylor progressively top each and every previously insane scene with something even more satisfying. Outlandish characters, delectable violence and perfectly placed nudity characterize this film that remarkably was without a dull moment.

It’s no secret that viewers of High Voltage must go into the film knowing that the main objective of both Neveldine and Taylor was probably to see how much carnage one man on a course of destruction could cause during one afternoon in Los Angeles. This they achieved.

What I didn’t figure to get was what I’d go as far as to call good filmmaking. Most action films have been stereotyped as being cheap vehicles of entertainment without any artistic expression. Well, there are exceptions, and the Crank series just happens to be one of those. Neveldine and Taylor are onto something here. They certainly have two bright careers ahead of them, whether they continue to work together or not.

Crank: High Voltage is one of the better ways to spend a Friday night inside the local cinema right now. If you aren’t energized before the film starts, you’ll surely be amped up by the time the credits roll.

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