6 movies that look and feel exactly like video games (but aren't actually based on games)

Why buy a license? These days you can make a video game movie without even the game

5. Crank

The most shameless video gamey film on this list, Crank wears its colours on its sleeve right from its garish 8/16-bit opening title sequence. As authentic a GTA 5 film as you could possibly want (provided you want a film based on all the sandbox screwing around rather than GTA IV’s more sober dramatic aspirations), the anarchic vibe of a western open-world action game drops out of every pixel on the screen.

Right from the opening shot, which depicts lead character Chet Chelios waking up and making his way out of his bedroom via a first-person camera perspective only to immediately have the film’s basic premise explained to him by way of a convenient video message, Crank is steeped in the tropes of current and last-gen gaming. And much like that of many games, its core premise – Chet has been injected with an experimental Chinese drug and needs to keep his adrenalin level high or he’ll die – is simply a background McGuffin used to facilitate and excuse as much flagrant carnage as possible.

From that opening scene until the end, Crank is a collage of location jumps, throwaway destruction, character introductions and executions, and increasingly ludicrous set-pieces. Scene transitions happen by way of whirling top-down city views from Google Maps. Extended action sequences repeatedly use an over-the-shoulder viewpoint. The film’s extended cast is pure GTA, each being a colourfully exaggerated cartoon stereotype with weird personal quirks. They’re usually introduced by way of a stylised cutaway vignette which sums up their personality in a few seconds, and whose visual style is more than a bit evocative of Grand Theft Auto’s traditional box art direction. Imagine GTA: San Andreas crossed with No More Heroes, and you’ll be imagining exactly the vibe that Crank has going on.

It’s rapid pacing, rapid characterisation, and machine gun plotting all the way, and all to the simple end of having nothing get in the way of the film’s constantly escalating barrage of Technicolor carnage. Within the first 20 minutes Chet has discovered his predicament, taken a gang leader hostage, started a bar fight with his foot-soldiers, casually driven a car through a shopping centre and beached it on an escalator, got half a police force chasing him, hired a taxi (after dragging the current customer out through the door, naturally), used that taxi to hold up a petrol station, and threatened a mob boss on his high-rise rooftop lounge after jumping into and dragging him out of his own swimming pool.

Twenty minutes, people. That’s less time than Grand Theft Auto IV took to even give you a gun.


Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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