Directed by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank)
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Clifton Collins Jr., Efren Ramirez, Ling Bai
The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes notes that Crank: High Voltage “doesn’t take itself too seriously.” The fact is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all—and that is precisely why you’ll either love or hate the film. Chances are if you enjoyed the wild ride of the original Crank (2006), you’re going to have a good time with this even more outrageous sequel. Truth to tell, what you really get here is the same movie all over again—only more so. What Crank: High Voltage lacks in terms of surprise, it tries to make up for in heightened absurdity. And even though it starts to feel like it’s running low on gas in the last few minutes, it generally succeeds.
What you have here is a Guy Ritchie-esque movie made by two guys, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who probably consider Ritchie too cerebral and slow-paced. Neveldine/Taylor (as they bill themselves) are more in the realm of really precocious, horny teenagers in love with filmmaking, who delight in outraging all sense of coherence and good taste. The question ultimately becomes whether their over-the-top bad-taste antics will amuse you or offend you. To that end, ask yourself some simple questions. Do sex, nudity and “bad” language bother you? Do such concepts as manic Asian hookers, black gay biker gangs, a sidekick with “full-body Tourette’s,” disembodied heads, elbow decapitations (“This looks new and interesting”) and large doses of violence and gore offend you? If you answered “yes” to any of these things, avoid all contact with this movie. Should contact occur, seek a G-rated antidote at once.
Now, for those who find such concepts as those I outlined above either perfectly acceptable or even the basic elements for everything you could ever want in a movie, Crank: High Voltage offers what can only be called a pretty wild ride. If you saw the original film, then you know that when last seen Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) had fallen from a helicopter, bounced off the top of a car, and landed with a resounding splat on the pavement. While that might have killed the ordinary action hero, it doesn’t account for the fact that Chev is made of sterner stuff—something that has not escaped the notice of some particularly venal Asian crime lords, who scrape him off the pavement and quickly spirit him away.
Three months later, Chev (apparently having overcome “that Chinese sh*t” that was poisoning his system in the previous film) finds himself in a filthy operating room, surrounded by sinister Asian surgeons, having his heart removed and a battery-driven replacement put in his chest. The reason for this, it transpires, is that they plan on keeping him alive so they can farm out the rest of his organs. When he realizes that the next item on the menu is his penis, he understandably takes exception and goes on a rampage of the kind that only Chev Chelios can. Advised by his shady buddy Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) that his battery heart is only good for a limited period of time (but can be extended by various kinds of electrical shock), it becomes a race to reclaim his real heart. If he can do this, Doc is “reasonably sure” he can put the heart back into our hero. After all, Doc was a surgeon till they took his license away when he botched his ex-wife’s “vaginal reconstruction.” It’s that kind of a movie, you see.
That is the basic plot, which proceeds to be embellished with action, bad-taste jokes, impossible plot twists and even some giant rubber-suited monsters battling it out in homage to any one of a hundred or so Japanese giant monster flicks. Much of what happens is grounded in the first movie and works on the basis of increasing the level of outrageousness. In other words, if the public sex scene from Crank was an affront to the dictates of good taste, the one here will be even more so and the public nature of it will be increased a hundred fold. The results are such that you laugh less at the gags themselves than at the audacity of the filmmakers for having the chutzpah (or possibly brazen lack of good sense) to go there. When it works, it works well. When it sputters, it’s simply a matter of waiting a minute till something that does work comes along. There are certainly lesser accomplishments using up theater screens out there. Rated R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language.