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Crank: High Voltage review

The Stath is back to break heads – with a broken heart...

His name is Chev Chelios. He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more.


You’d be mad too if Triad surgeons (is that really a legitimate career path?) had hacked out your “pump” and replaced it with an artificial, electrically charged turbo-ticker.

“Where…” demands Chev (Jason Statham) of a battered bad-guy, “ my fackin’ strawberry tart!?”

Crank: High Voltage is an explosion in a silly-ideas factory that falls out of the mentalist tree and hits every twitching, psychotic branch on the way down. On acid, crack, PCP, steroids, ketamine, absinthe, really strong coffee…

But the key substance gushing through Statham and the movie’s veins is loud, leery, testosterone. Chev roars and snorts and clatters around like a wounded buffalo – butting, bashing, smashing and crotch-crunching anything that stands in the way of his tart-hunt.

Directors Neveldine and Taylor fire up every obscure trick in their editing software: druggy image warping, elastic slo-mo, jump-cuts to split-second freeze-frames…

Sniffier critics will smirk at the straight-outta-film-school ferocity, but there are two sequences that deserve to feature in 2009’s end-of-year Best Scenes list...

First – the reprise of the original’s very public anger-bang where Chev takes girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) up the marketplace, complete with cheering onlookers (hurrah for heterosexuality!)

This time, Chev and Eve get it very heavily ‘on’ in the middle of a horse-race track – boffing like bunnies as a stampede of thoroughbreds thunder towards their writhing (pixellated) dirty bits.

Second – an eye-saucering moment in which gigantic, Godzilla-style versions of Chev and a rival (complete with monstrous, behemothic head-masks) slug it out at an electricity sub-station: a grunting, faintly homoerotic wrestle-fest before a backdrop of sparking pylons.

Neveldine and Taylor are so busy steering Statham into the relentless comic ultraviolence (shot at in a confined limo, dragged behind a speedboat), they can barely be arsed with supporting characters.

There’s an ex-heart surgeon buddy who Chev calls to act as plot narrator and audience technical advisor, an associate with, umm, ‘full-body Tourette’s’ (“I can’t control myself!”) and a gun-waving parade of multi-ethnic hoods and heavies lining up to be hit and hammered and abused – often in ways that will set liberal sphincters clenching (to a Triad driver… “Did someone drop some change or is there a Chink in here?”)

Clunking, throwaway cutaways to chat-shows and satirical news reports confirm that Neveldine and Taylor are more interested in pumping up the volume on what worked the first time rather than offer anything new.

But Statham’s the key. He clearly knows that comedy is all about playing it straight (and, genre-wise, this is more comedy than action). Never does he waver; not once is there a hint that he doesn’t believe in it.

Even when he has to defrib’ himself by chomping on a car jump-lead.

Even when he dips a shotgun in tar and jams it into a baddie’s arse.

Even when he has to wear an electric dog-collar and yap like a scolded puppy.

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