RECAP: Crank

Crank (2006): Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

Crank asks viewers to answer one question: if you had one day to live and were a hit man, how would you go out? Jason Statham answers: with lots of bangs, literally and figuratively.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: A Los Angeles hitman is poisoned by a rival, and only a constant flood of adrenaline will keep him alive. 

Hero (5/10)

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is having the worst day of his life. He wakes up in his apartment feeling groggy, and he stumbles toward his TV to discover a DVD with “FUCK YOU” written on it. He pops it in, and sees himself receiving an injection into his neck from a two-inch needle. At the other end of that needle and speaking to the camera is an up-and-coming crime boss and gentleman named Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo).

Just a terrible day for Chev and anyone in his path.

Verona injected a hi-tech Chinese poison into his neck, one without an antidote. “Have yourself a nice death,” Verona says. Chev has about an hour to live, by all estimates.

Chev doesn’t like this turn of events, and he beats the shit out of his TV. It doesn’t make him feel better. The rest of the day Chev spends trying to save his life, and avenge himself. Much of his time–nearly eight hours–he spends calling various associates to help him find Verona.

What would you do if injected with a mystery poison? You’d call your doctor. Chev does, and he soon learns that the only thing keeping his heart beating is a constant flood of adrenaline. This after trying to kickstart himself with some cocaine.

Well, if you had hours to live and adrenaline was the only thing keeping you alive, you might try the crazy things Chev tries. He drives his car through a mall, spinning in the concourse and flipping the car onto the up escalator. I don’t think that’s possible, but it happens in Crank.

Here are some things Chev does to boost his adrenaline: steal a police motorcycle, have sex in public, get a blow job while fleeing police in a car, leap into a pool fully clothed, rob a hospital, steal energy drinks from a gas station, receive defibrillation while conscious, ride a motorcycle no-handed, cook his hand on a waffle maker, and drink an unknown Haitian designer drug.

Chev’s shirts looks like it has nooses on it. I think that’s an accident.

Chev also visits his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart). He wants to protect her life, but there’s a problem, Eve doesn’t know Chev is a hit man. He spends the first half of the movie going full throttle, the second half stealthily going full throttle.

All this violence stems from a hit Chev did recently on a drug kingpin named Don Kim. Or, was it only an alleged hit? We shall see.

Statham is fantastic as Chev. He’s forced to play a lunatic and a concerned boyfriend, often in one take. He snorts cocaine from a floor. He can wear a tracksuit or hospital scrubs and look cool. We see his butt often. He sports a boner beneath those scrubs. To learn why a bloke from Derbyshire who pronounces God as “Gutt” became a top-tier action star, watch Crank and marvel at the versatility.

Villain (0/10)

Verona is a rude dude. He’s moving up in the LA crime world, and Chev is in his way for some reason. I didn’t quite understand why he so desperately wanted Chev dead, and to suffer so, but he committed to it. Verona interacts with Chev mostly through the phone.

The bad guy, I guess.

Verona is super confident to start, like a cat playing with a mouse. Things change after Chev chops off Verona’s brother’s hand and steals a medallion loaded with sentimental value. Verona then resorts to bashing the phone on chairs and sofas out of anger.

Verona does little other than this. He’s the little bitch to a guy named Carlito, a bigger player in the LA crime scene, and is sensitive about that. He spends most of his time getting the runaround from Chev and Carlito. Come to think of it, Verona sucks. His only smart move was injecting the poison into Chev and giving us a reason for the movie.

Action/Effects (5/10)

Crank is essentially one long action take. Much like Mad Max: Fury RoadCrank starts with its main character being caught by the villain and branded, given a brief time to live, escaping, seeking revenge on that villain, and turning his world upside down. That’s right, Fury Road copied Crank.

There’s little need for extended action sequences when the protagonist must produce adrenaline every few minutes to stay alive.

Crank keeps the viewer off balance with several tricks. Take the opening sequence, when Chev destroys his TV. That scene was shot with at least three different camera types and numerous cuts.

Chev can kill a man without looking at him.

The movie shows Chev’s heart beating abnormally four times. It even shows a pigeon’s heart beat. After injecting too much epinephrine Chev sprints a marathon at Usain Bolt speeds, and wearing a hospital gown. The soundtrack is jammed full of rock, techno, dance, and industrial tracks, running constantly.

A movie like Crank has to one-up itself with bombast, and it succeeds for the first 30 minutes. Chev, with the help of his friend Kaylo (Efren Ramirez), tracks Verona’s brother to a restaurant. Chev, with little to lose, stalks into the restaurant and lures the brother through its kitchen and into the back alley.

Chev strikes. Using a meat cleaver found in the kitchen, he chops off the brother’s gun-toting hand. The brother is shocked by this, of course, but the pain has yet to set in. Chev wonders how many steaks they could carve out of him. The brother gets in some punches, but when he tries to hit Chev with his right hand, he forgets that he no longer has a right hand. Chev dodges the blow and the guy jabs his stub into the asphalt.

Kaylo comes outside with a rolling pin and bashes the brother good. Well, badly, because the brother cares little about said rolling pin. He lifts a trash can and throws it at Kaylo. The distraction affords Chev the time to find the brother’s gun.

Of course, the hand remains attached to the gun, so when Chev shoots his antagonist in the back of the head, spraying blood over poor Kaylo, technically the brother’s hand pulled the trigger of his own gun, killing himself.

A new definition for the term “hand gun.”

Bonus points for creative use of disembodied hand.

Sidekicks (5/8)

Chev is dating a nice, normal gal named Eve, who doesn’t show up until half way through the movie, nor does she know Chev is a hit man.

Crank‘s best tension arrives with Eve. She treats her man and her day with the utmost chill, dodging his calls because she’s sleeping in. Chev tells her, calmly, that some psychopaths are coming to kill her, but she doesn’t listen because she believes he’s a video game programmer and must be joking.

Sex is good for adrenaline UNLESS you finish.

Eve runs through a wide arc in a half a movie. She’s introduced to the audience knowing nothing of Chev’s predicament. She asks him to fix her microwave’s clock, for Christ’s sake. Next thing you know, she fucks him in public and follows him to a shootout. She defends her man from verbal abuse, and then she leaves the movie. A strong performance for a brief appearance. She’s the Judi Dench-in-Shakespeare in Love of Crank.

Chev spends one moment artfully dodging his girlfriend’s suspicions in a funny scene. Chev tries to coax Eve from her apartment because some guys are coming to kill her.

Chev upends her purse, forcing her to gather all the items and replace them. While she does, her head is turned as Chev struggles with a hit man and his silenced pistol. She doesn’t notice when he snaps the guy’s neck.

***

It was just another day at the sexy massage parlor for Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) when his best customer Chev called to tell him about a poison injection. Doc might not be the most reachable doctor, but he sure knows his stuff. Within moments of learning of Chev’s symptoms–on the phone, no less–Doc’s deduced the style of poison (a Beijing cocktail), and exactly how its going to kill him.

This doctor has committed plenty of frauds.

“If you stop,” Doc says to Chev, “you die.”

So Chev doesn’t stop. He even tries jamming to “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Henchmen (2/8)

Verona’s brother’s epic hand chop and death takes all the cake. Forget about the other guys; this was the scene.

Stunts (5/6)

The movie’s best stunt by far involved Chev hanging outside a helicopter. That really was Jason Statham and that helicopter really was flying at 3,000 feet. He also did the Look Ma No Hands motorcycle stunt. Also, when Chev steals a cop’s motorcycle, the cop hangs onto the back and slides across the asphalt, his boots sparking.

Wearing a scrub qualifies as a stunt, right?

Climax (1/6)

After Chev gets a special treatment from his doctor, he arrives at a posh hotel to trade with Verona, antidote for family medallion. Seems simple.

Chev had time to don a slick suit and walk very slowly toward the camera. In an elevator he eats a dozen pills and has a strange interaction with a Japanese man, who mouths dialogue from previous moments in the movie. Chev knows he’s hallucinating, but why? Keep this in mind.

Chev enters the penthouse and its adjoining sun deck. Half-naked women are sitting bored in glass spheres. Verona and Carlito, together at last, sit on a couch. Carlito is cool, Verona is the opposite. People, not gonna say who, have been calling him a bitch.

Carlito takes the pump the doctor installed on Chev to prolong his life for another hour. That’s going to be a problem. Chev is cool about it. He watches Carlito draw out another needle. Is it the antidote? Perhaps.

Chev has a weapon of his own. Finger guns. He points a finger gun at Carlito, then at Verona who, nervous and jumpy, stops laughing immediately. Finally, Chev points his finger gun at an armed guard. He “pulls the trigger” and watches the guard die with a shot to the head. Everyone is scared.

Suddenly, the plot is revealed. It’s Don Kim! And he brought his boys! And they have better guns. A gunfight breaks out. Few people take cover, choosing to spray bullets at their enemies.

Turns out Chev refused to kill Don Kim, instead asking him to disappear for 48 hours until he could straighten out some things. Also, Chev shakes up the entire Los Angeles drug industry.

Back to the action. Carlito is smart enough to seek cover while blasting away at his enemies. One of Kim’s men throws a grenade toward Carlito. The boss spots it. He tackles one of his own men onto the grenade. It explodes. Both bodies fly upward, but only Carlito survives. He did ruin his white suit, though. At least the other guy won’t have to worry about dry cleaning bills.

Verona manages to shoot off his fingers with his own gun. This guy is fully incompetent. I can’t figure out how he rose so high in the crime world. And in Los Angeles. That’s a tough city. Verona wisely runs away, but after taking his fingers and the needle for injecting Chev.

Chev spots his enemy running, but without his pump he’s losing his mind. He shoots the heads off of the short jockey statues lining the terrace. What good is that doing? None.

Carlito has called in a helicopter to escape. He runs up a staircase toward it. Verona follows. Chev follows Verona. Soon all three are on the helipad.

Carlito boards the chopper first. Chev attacks Carlito. Verona sneaks behind Chev and injects him in the neck for the second time that day. Chev falls away, stunned. Verona shoots Carlito in the chest a few times and boards the chopper. Who’s the bitch now?

Chev recovers fast enough to grab ahold of the landing skid as the chopper flies away. Verona and Chev choke each other, neither willing to risk the momentum swings accompanying a punch and to fall out of the chopper.

At least for a spell. Chev, expecting to die in minutes, punches first. He drags Verona from the chopper and both fall. It’s Chev’s turn to choke Verona, while falling to their deaths. I’d say that’s overkill, Chev, because it’s literally overkill. Chev snaps Verona’s windpipe before either hit the ground.

Chev does a funny thing, he calls Eve one more time. The ground is fast approaching behind/below Chev. He gets her answering machine again. Hmm.

Cut to a car on the street. Chev smashes into its hood, bounces off, and lands in the street a few inches from the camera. He blinks. The movie ends.

Did he survive? How could he? Was that a last eye twitch, the final nerve firing to end his life? Was it all a hallucination? How will we know?

Sequel.

Jokes (2/4)

Chev spells his name to a receptionist as “D, E, A, D, Chelios. His buddy Orlando was willing to sell him “medicinal use coke,” and the doc tried to mix methamphetamine with an IV drip.

I’d love to say that I added that word to the screen grab, but I didn’t. It’s in the movie.

Setting (1/4)

Crank might be the first movie to use Google Maps at least three times. Who needs establishing shots when you have that and some cheap, ’80s-video-game-style graphics?

I was surprised to find the abandoned warehouse where Kaylo was being tortured to not actually be abandoned. It was a functioning sewing factory.

The coolest location? Easily the sun deck at the hotel.

Commentary (0/2)

Keep moving.

Offensiveness (-1/-2)

Chev is tired of a cabbie driving him around, so he tosses him onto the curb to steal his car. To further degrade him, he shouts at the cafe-goers eating nearby. “Al-Qaeda!” Chev screams, pointing to the cabbie. Cane-wielding grandmas descend on this innocent victim of carjacking, beating him senseless.

I’m not sure that this scene was a comment on white American fear of colored people, especially in the Bush era, or if the directors thought it would be a funny scene. This joke/comment could have carried more weight if brought further through the movie. As a newscaster reports later, Chev’s rampage through the city caused at least one death and left several injured. He was the real terrorist.

Others

  • Why does a Chinese drug kingpin have Korean name? Script oversight?
  • Many people complain about LA traffic, but it nearly actually killed Chev.
  • Chev’s shirt designs resembled nooses.
  • The police have a sketch of Chev and know his background only hours after he started his rampage.
  • The best cinematographer was the guy who shot the video of Verona injecting the poison into Chev.

Summary (25/68): 37%

Crank is full-throttle as such movies get. Thank God it was only 87 minutes. I’m not sure I could have stomached another image of Chev’s heart beating.