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

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.


film movies


  • LEGOMatrix - November 17, 2012 8:09 p.m.

    OMFG, it's Chev! Chev Chelios! As in "F**k you Chev Chelios" repeated multiple times throughout both films! -10 man points, Hooters! Death Race 2000 was Carmageddon before Carmageddon. Run Lola Run is like replaying levels differently each time. Shaolin Soccer. Just... Shaolin Soccer.
  • OICJC - November 17, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    Nintendo365 got it right, but the article gets it wrong; the character in Crank is named Chev, not Chet.
  • n00b - November 14, 2012 6:13 p.m.

    why you game journalist always get up tight about skimpy outfits? I think the outfits in sucker punch look cool and fit well the visual style and universe.
  • Apastron - November 14, 2012 2:34 p.m.

    Cloverfield is my favourite movie, a lot of that due to the first-person view which seduced me the same way Half-Life 2 did. District 9 and Battle Los Angeles were recommended to me off the back of this; the former was the worst movie I have ever seen, the latter wasn't a lot better. I think there's a movie called Super8 which is apparently quite game-like too. Don't know if I dare watch it having been burnt twice by this similarity.
  • winner2 - November 14, 2012 6:13 a.m.

    Sucker Punch was freakin' awesome. Especially that soundtrack, holy shit.
  • wheresmymonkey - November 14, 2012 1:36 a.m.

    Good list. I would of Added Dredd, Old Boy and The Raid to the list.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - November 14, 2012 9:06 a.m.

    Old Boy very nearly made it, just for that side-scrolling sequence.
  • Peguin - November 13, 2012 8:34 p.m.

    That article was a long time coming (i remember you discussing it on a podcast way back) but a very enjoyable read. Good work
  • FuzzyDeath - November 13, 2012 3:37 p.m.

    When I first saw the trailer for Sucker Punch, I was ZOMG! Went to watch it in the cinema, and I wanted to walk out after thirty minutes of bullshit. -_- Movie sucked so bad. I hated it.
  • alex-roy-bristol - November 13, 2012 3:51 p.m.

    Dude, that movie was literally one of the best thinking movies I have ever seen, or even HEARD of... Where you just going to see boobies?
  • christoffer-karlof - November 13, 2012 12:03 p.m.

    Children of men, very much inspired by half life 2, and the whole movie is basically about level progression. Also one of the best damn movies in a decade
  • nintendo365 - November 13, 2012 11:46 a.m.

    Crank was unexpected, but PERFECT. It is exactly like a GTA/Saints Row Crossover. And plus Chev Chelios is a Niko Bellic looking mofo.
  • RedHarlow - November 13, 2012 11:21 a.m.

    I loved the girls and the Steampunk World War I scene in Sucker Punch. I could do without everything else.
  • Fuzunga - November 13, 2012 10:53 a.m.

    Speed Racer, man. All I could think when watching that movie was "I want to play this".
  • BladeBlur - November 13, 2012 11:54 a.m.

    Words. Of. Truth.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - November 13, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    Re: Scott Pilgrim, Tron, Gamer etc. They were deliberately left off because they referece gaming too explicitly, or are directly built around it as a plot point. The point of this list is to discuss films that are just influenced by the aesthetic or structure of games without games being their primary theme or subject matter. Same reason things like Wreck-It Ralph and The Last Starfighter aren't applicable.
  • cgriff63 - November 13, 2012 10:21 a.m.

    Not sure why scott pilgrim didn't make it on the list..
  • christopher-renfrow - November 13, 2012 10:10 a.m.

    Er... not sure about this but how about Tron? Especially Tron Legacy...
  • Exiled Reaper - November 13, 2012 9:49 a.m.

    Loved Sucker Punch, all the action was brilliant despite the semi-rubbish plot. Surprised not to see a couple others on here, like Terminator or Cameron's Avatar. Also very, very surprised not to see the 2009 movie Gamer on here. A good article overall though!
  • b-dog1991 - November 13, 2012 7:50 a.m.

    I'll chime in with the obligatory Scott Pilgrim mention, although to be fair, the film takes its cues more from the source material rather than videogames themselves. Still, a lot of shots in that film are framed in the side-on Street Fighter stance and it's story structure couldn't be more gamey if it tried.

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