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Crank: High Voltage

Year: 2009
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor
Writer: Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor
Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Clifton Collins Jr, Geri Halliwell, John de Lancie

I wasn't the biggest fan of the original Crank – it was a finely written and nifty little actioner that had some interesting style and for awhile there it threatened to put Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor on the map and promote them to much bigger things.

If you feel the same and figure you might give Crank: High Voltage a miss because there won't be much to see, think again. Crank had some personality but felt a bit too much like it was going for a big screen, mainstream release so Neveldine and Taylor held a little back on their wilder tendencies. This time it feels like they said 'fuck it, this is never going to be released widely, let's go nuts and if they don't like it, so what'.

As such, Crank: High Voltage is three things. Off. The. Chain. It's crazy, wild, chaotic, insane, blisteringly paced, cartoonishly violent and as fun as hell. The writer/directors and star Jason Statham have taken everything that gave the first film a bit of verve and turned it up to eleven. The language is far fruitier than I remember (Statham spits 'cunt!' at a goon he's just put violently down as he saunters past him). The action is pure lunacy even aside from a premise that seemingly calls for high octane action, and the violence is gleefully comic and comically gleeful.

But they haven't stopped there. Neveldine and Taylor have used almost every trick of camerawork and image manipulation in the book, looking like they hoovered up a platter of cocaine before post production and editing. The tone in the sense of movement and cinematography is a gatling gun, gloriously turbulent ride.

Chev Chelios (Statham) is alive after falling out of a helicopter because of his strongest organ – his heart – is almost indestructible. But as soon as he hits the street in downtown Los Angeles (as he did at the end of Crank) a van pulls up and men jump out, bustle him in the back of it and drive him away.

Their employer is a notorious Chinese mobster who's heart is failing and thus has his dodgy surgeons take Chev's heart out and replace it with a battery powered device that needs regular jolts of electricity to recharge it, sending Chev's fading strength into the stratosphere every time he does, just like the shtick from the last film where he can't let his heartrate fall below a certain level.

Narratively it's the previous film all over again, Chev running, driving, fighting and shooting all over LA's mean streets to get his real heart back and hooking himself up to various sources of electricity to juice himself up on the way before he runs out of power.

Along the way he falls in with an unhinged Asian hooker, old friends from the last film and stripper girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), who's instrumental in his need to create electrostatic friction by rubbing his skin against someone else's (yes, it's what you're imagining).

Also new to the series is the outright comedy, and everyone's up for the more overt gags in the script – you'll find yourself bursting into laughter plenty of times. It has a look all its own because of very high frame rates, almost fish-eye lens cameras at times, a grime and grit in the film stock (although with a budget of $20m it was no doubt shot on digital) and a bevy of editorial flourishes, and I loved every chaotic minute.

Everything about Crank: High Voltage felt like the work of filmmakers given money to make exactly what they wanted instead of having to temper the tone to chase a specific rating or box office demographic. You wouldn't think a sequel to a mid 2000s action movie that was okay but nothing groundbreaking would represent unrestrained artistic vision, but this film is Neveldine and Taylor's auteur moment.

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