Wednesday, April 4, 2012

If You Hear The Concept, You've Seen The Movie: The Failure Of Crank

The Good: Concept is interesting, Direction has its moments
The Bad: Terrible characters, Unextraordinary acting, Poor direction, Simplistic plot, Dumb and degrading
The Basics: Unrelentingly violent and pointless, Crank is a movie that's concept tells the entire story and without a likable or believable protagonist is just a waste of celluloid.

It wasn't until I was about five minutes into Crank that I realized I had seen a preview of the movie in the theaters last year and written it off as not worth seeing then. It struck me as a movie whose best moments were in the trailer. Sadly, the best moments of the movie are in the concept, so once you've heard what the movie is about, you have essentially seen the movie. The best possible summary I can give about how poor a film Crank can be encapsulated in this one, true line: the biggest thrill in the movie for me came near the very end when I recognized obscure actor Keone Young (he has a beard in this). In an action-adventure movie filled with running, car chases, drug use, and more violence than virtually any other movie, this is a terrible fate to be remembered for the momentary appearance of an obscure character actor.

Chev is a hired assassin who has stopped working for - of all things - the love of a woman, in this case a dainty drug addict named Eve. Chev awakens to discover that his change of heart has not gone unnoticed by his former employers, who have injected him with an ancient Chinese toxin that will kill him within an hour. All hope that the movie will end within that hour is crushed when Chev quickly realizes that adrenalin slows the effects. What follows is 82 minutes (the entire movie comes in at 87 minutes) of Chev running around shooting people to try to find the guy who injected him with the killer toxin and find a cure, if possible.

That's it. You've seen the movie. Anything you can imagine within the context of "man has an hour to live, wants to keep alive by keeping the adrenalin flowing" concept happens in this movie. Chev drives fast, runs, gets into fights, does drugs, drinks a LOT of energy drinks, robs a hospital, has angry sex, and shoots a lot of people. That's it.

Because of the sheer stupidity and repetitive nature of the supposedly escalating excitement that keeps Chev around long enough to yell at his doctor, publicly rape his girlfriend and hack his way toward the big boss, I'm compelled to get what's good about Crank out of the way as quickly as possible. The basic idea is not terrible, though the execution of it falls dramatically short of anything that could be close to being called a worthwhile film. What works is the creativity of the direction. Writer-Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are a bit creative about how they present moments of the movie, with subtitles and hallucination scenes that are momentarily interesting.

Part of the problem with Crank is that the intrigue of the direction does not hold the viewer. I GET what they were trying to do, with frenetic, frantic camera moves, but it's more annoying and headache-inducing than it is genuinely interesting or qualitatively decent. And the concept is all up the first time the viewer sees through Chev's eyes as the toxin begins to have an effect and he gets into a dangerous situation and his vision begins to clear again. It would take a pretty dense viewer to not get the concept.

None of the characters are remotely interesting. Most of the characters in this movie are simple people Chev runs into or has cheesed off in the past to make them want to kill him. Most of the characters who appear in Crank appear long enough to provide momentary menace, then either lose his trail or are dispatched by Chev. There are slews of characters who do not have lines because, well, it's not that type of movie.

Eve does not seem all that worthwhile for one to give up a life of crime for (unlike the character of Edie Finneran in The Usual Suspects, Eve is doing nothing to get Chev out of the life he's found himself in). In fact, Eve has a pretty abysmal role, appropriately being blamed for the entire series of events that cause this cinematic abomination. After all, were it not for Eve and her feminine wiles, Chev would have stayed a cold-blooded killer for hire. Please. Eve serves as an excuse for the plot and a cheap excuse for a violent sex scene wherein Chev essentially uses her as a seminal receptacle to keep his adrenalin flowing by taking her - initially very much against her will - on a streetcorner in Chinatown.

Chev has essentially no character, either. There is nothing presented that makes his moment of conscience believable. As in Elektra (reviewed here!), it makes no sense why THIS case is different, when as a hired assassin Chev - like Elektra - had likely killed people exactly the way demanded in the past. Chev isn't given time - or lines - to develop a character. He's on the run and he has a basic idea of how to prolong his life.

We wish he wouldn't.

Regardless, the acting is nothing to write home about either. Jason Stratham runs and shoots a gun fine, but the lines are not delivered convincingly (fortunately, there are very few) and the net effect is watching someone the viewer does not care about run and jump to survive when we don't care if he does or not.

All that keeps this movie above 1 is the attempted creative techniques of the directors. A far superior movie would be The Usual Suspects or, more recently, Lucky # Slevin. Either of those would be vastly more worth your time. Save what life YOU have left by not watching this movie.

For other somewhat mindless action movies, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Death Race


Check out how this movie stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of the films in order, best to worst!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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