|In Short:||Genuinely insane action movies.|
|Recommended:||You may need a penis to enjoy this.|
|DOC MILES:||If you stop, you die.|
It is hard to think of a man who epitomizes this month’s topic of British Invasion better than Jason Statham. Appearing in 35 movies since his debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998, Jason Statham is everywhere and in everything.
Far and away the highlights of this up-and-down ride through action man stardom are the two Crank movies. The Transporter movies are cool, but nothing tops Crank for sheer insanity.
The premise of the first movie is that our lead character Chev Chelios (Statham) wakes up to find a DVD next to his bed. Slotting it in the drive he learns that some random guy who doesn’t like him has snuck into his house and poisoned him while he slept. Naturally, it’s not just any poison: this is some ‘seriously sick Chinese shit’. Weirdly, the poison does not kill him instantly, or even quickly, but is instead counteracted by adrenaline. And there’s the movie for you. As long as Chev keeps running, jumping, kicking, punching and even sexing, he stays alive.
And what does a hard man like Chev do in such a situation? Well he uses all that running etc to find the guy who poisoned him and kill him.
This premise takes all of ten minutes to setup and from then on it’s a continuous flurry of activity as things get increasingly out of control, culminating in Chev jumping out of a plane and engaging in a mid-air shoot out. Only problem is Chev doesn’t have a parachute and the first movie ends SPOILER ALERT with him landing very heavily on the ground after a fall of some many thousands of feet.
But is that enough to keep a crazy man down? Of course not.
And so the second movie opens for us to find Chev being scooped off the road by some medical-looking types who remove his heart to give to some old Chinese boss who clearly needs a new heart from the most badass guy in the city -- compatibility notwithstanding, Chev’s heart is clearly going to make the old guy stronger, faster, more alive. I would like to say that Chev wakes up before this happens but alas he does not. He only wakes up as they are about to take his impressive appendage -- of course his penis is considerably more important than his heart.
The driving plot device this time is that Chev is wired up with an artificial heart plugged into a car battery. As long as he’s powered up, Chev is okay but as soon as the battery starts to drop so does he. Instead of needing to keep his adrenaline pumping, now Chev needs to find increasingly implausible ways to recharge himself -- succeeding most spectacularly when he finds a power sub-station.
Again Chev sets out to find the people who did him wrong while he slept (there’s an odd Sleeping Beauty analogy thing going here) by hunting his way up the chain of nameless henchmen.
Two supporting roles stand out in these movies. One is Doctor Miles (Dwight Yoakam), who spends each of the movies getting high and laid while providing Chev with begrudging advice on his condition. The world weariness with which he puts down his drink and asks a hooker to get off his lap so he can save Chev’s life provides a perfect counter-point to the overcharged rest of the movie.
The second is Chev’s ditsy girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) who is rarely given an explanation for what is going on but agrees to follow Chev around as things get crazier and crazier and twice lets him bang her in public to keep his energy up. Chev’s disgust that she is working as a stripper at the start of the second movie (he had apparently disappeared for long enough for her to need some cash) is at odds with his willingness to sexually parade her in public. Eve is great, though, and somehow manages to seem innocent despite all the awfulness around her, not least this insane man who will kill hundreds to find the one person who poisoned him/stole his heart.
These movies are genuinely as ridiculous as action movies in the West get and are approaching the sheer level of zaniness only possible in Eastern Europe and Thailand (Crank is about as crazy as Ong Bak for you connoisseurs out there). But unlike so many happily B-Grade action movies, the Cranks don’t get hung up on emotional exposition or any characterisation beyond the superficial -- none of those things are important when a man is literally alight, burning like a witch on a pyre, and yet still standing and shooting.
So forget that Statham used to be a model for French Connection and forget that his abdominals make all lesser men (which, incidentally, is all of us) feel a little inadequate. Instead, just enjoy the sort of schizophrenic thrills clearly designed for a generation with an attention span of less than two minutes.
(Which, incidentally, is all of us).
-- Brad Crammond