You're So Stressed Out, Do You Want Some Pot?: Crank (2006)

I know that whoever might come across this blog would seem to find my taking the time to even blog about Crank a bit curious.  A film that appears to be a completely action oriented film starring Jason Statham that could very well have been shot entirely as a result of a couple of guys drinking way too much Red Bull before doing an equal amount of cocaine.  Crank is a movie that on paper would be everything I despise about the movie industry, because it appears to be filtering out normative fare about cool white guys running amuck in a city with little or no consequence to their own bodies or those around them.  Crank, however, proves almost immediately to be the singular exception to this rule, becoming something much more in lines with Tom Twyker's Run Lola Run or the maddening cinematic sporadical nature of a Terry Gilliam film.  Crank emerges off of the screen as some sort of larvae that had been festering in the open wounds of the post-modern cinematic structure, wherein the likes of referential filmmaking and only the most moderate of attempts to merge new filming technologies with narrative were being explored.  Here, in the frantic pace of 88 minutes the directorial team of Neveldine/Taylor offer up a cocktail of special effects, music and every other possible element that is as lethal to the eye sockets of the viewer as the drug with which the film borrows its title.  It is not to say that this sort of execution should be the singular approach to action filmmaking, because if done so with even the slightest of a misstep it becomes nauseating, foolish and frankly a bit grating.  Crank, however, manages to take the concept of the frenetic filmic possibilities of post-modernism and move the camera within the diegetic space in clever ways, both breaking the fourth wall and the very understanding of temporal progress in cinema to result in something that is far more enticing that it is disconcerting.  Crank has the feel of being a rather fun experimental film project that has been stretched to its absolute limitations, always at the point of cracking, but never losing its tension.  Indeed, if there is anything to find fault in with Crank it is the fanboys who have appropriated the film as their point of reference without doubly understanding the moral implications at play in the film or how the function as part of a larger commentary on the nature of dilmmic language and action cinema.  Crank is a gift, one that is both acknowledged by a large audience, but also quite overlooked by many for its layered critical possibilities.

Crank focuses on the character of Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) a hired hand for various criminal organizations in Los Angeles who happens to awake one morning to find himself in a dizzied frenzy and barely able to walk.  It is not until he approaches his television and discovers a DVD explaining his situation that things become much clearer.  Chev's former boss has exacted one of his henchmen, Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) to see to Chev's death, but given the warped sense of how to go about murdering a hired hand, Verona chooses to inject him with a cocktail of various drugs that put his body into a state of slow nerve and arterial arrest.  Panicking, the maniacal Chev attempts to contact his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) with no success, leading to his turning to his 'doctor' and medicinal advisor Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam).  It is explained that the drug's affects can be slightly altered if Chev is capable of keeping up his heart rate and adrenaline to their highest points, as it will keep him functioning and prevent his body from shutting down.  At first completely concerned with sustaining his own well-being Chev begins a rampage about Los Angeles that includes him obtaining and snorting crack on a bathroom floor before getting into a fistfight and even driving through a packed mall in order to evade police in pursuit.  In between, all of this Chev continues to load himself up with various drugs and sources of caffeine, all the while attempting to contact Eve, while also obtaining information regarding Verona and his lackey through his friend and informant Kaylo (Efren Ramirez).  When Chev is finally able to catch up to Eve, her generally blasaie attitude, paired with her constant pot smoking lead her to be rather oblivious to the going-ons, although when she sees Chev's body falling apart she is willing to sacrifice both mind and body (in a very obvious way) to assure his safety.  Eventually, Doc Miles is able to meet with Chev and help control the substance running rampant through his body, but it proves only a means to slow down the decay, thus causing Chev to execute in his last hours alive the most wild and aggressive of revenge acts, all culminating with him falling as his body slows to its final beats.

This movie is a lot of things in a matter of very little narrative space.  It is rather clear that the filmmakers had a great time creating the film and by extension Statham seems to clearly enjoy the general off-the-wall nature of his characters' rampaging.  What is lost in the visceral styling of the film and the latent coolness of such a unchecked push through rage is a larger look at the male power figure in the action film and the ways in which he too is capable of going on rampages in the name of his own self-interests, even if not quite as intense as is on display in Crank.  This male action figure as body that can overcome all obstacles has its most classic connection to the iconic works in the James Bond franchise, primarily those tied to Sean Connery.  What makes Crank so absolutely scathing in this regard is the noted emphasis on Chev's own survival being predicated on filling his body with chemically vile materials, all the while breaking and plowing through everything in his path in rode to save himself.  Indeed, his relations to the other characters around him are also stretched by his own fight or flight mentally, here drawn out to a very literal level.  In a way, Chev is a Bond or, in fact, another Statham action character, but here the sense of good versus evil becomes far murkier, when indeed his only willingness not to flee for his safety and the though of taking Eve with him is challenged by the realization that even if he continues to rampage and destroy accordingly he will only do so in a futile sense.  This awakening all plays back on his ultimate decision not to go through with an assassination, which led to his being injected with the Crank in the first place.  Wherein a previous masculine action hero is playing into the execution of military orders or the saving of his daughter from an unseen kidnapper, Chev is solely doing things for his own fruition, taking and giving to others as it enables him to further on his desires.  This would all make for a great film, but what takes the film to the next level is the moment when Chev must encounter his own mortality in the death bed of a patient at the hospital.  The existential implications in this, one of two paused and slowed down moments in the film is highly evocative, as it is not until he is plummeting to his own death where the futility of his own actions and the larger masculine hero as harbinger of unchecked power crash to the ground, here very literally.

Key Scene:  It is tough to pick out of something that is so heavily invested in a strung out narrative, but one can see many of the elements at work well in the mall chase scene through its entire fruition.  Also the subtitles scene is pretty great.

Crank is rather easy to come by on bluray and must be seen in HD.  I was glad to become aware of this film through a blog some time ago of underrated bluray releases.  I cannot emphasize the deserved place of this film on that list.

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