To fully understand Crank: High Voltage a film history lesson is in order. Arguably, the most influential film movement is The French New Wave and its greatest director is Jean-Luc Godard. While he created a number of critically and commercially popular films, one of his most controversial films, “Week End,” is a film that intentionally tries to incite the rage of its audience. Crank: High Voltage takes on the same mentality.
It even uses many of the same technique. Like Week End, the film divides up the film into clear, separate set-pieces. Any change of location results in the zooming out of the map and identifying the next location. It’s a heavy-handed and crass effect. It also uses a diagram to explain one of the more technical elements of the film.
You see, Chev Chelois (Jason Statham) has had his heart stolen, replaced with an artificial device as his plan to harvest the rest of his organs. But Chev makes a violently escape and a chase begins in which Chev is out to find his missing heart. However, the catch is the artificial heart must be charged with electricity or Chev will die. It’s not long before Chev is licking car batteries and tazing himself to get just a bit more of juice.
The film had the perfect opportunity to be a satire of the action film genre. After all, he is searching for his heart, which is what most conflicted action heroes lack. Instead, Crank: High Voltage is more interested in shocking its audience with gratuitous violence and crass sex.
This isn’t the stylized gore that we’ve seen from the likes of Zack Snyder, but tactless violence that is more interested in grossing out the audience than creating a visual effect or asthetic. The violence is mindlessly brutal as body parts are maimed in detail and blood flows copiously from simple bullet wounds.
Even more mindless is the ridiculous amount of nudity. Every other scene contains a pair of female breasts. The scum of the earth love their topless women, but there’s no reason to have a gunfight amidst twenty topless strippers. Actually, the only reason is to titillate the male audience, making “Crank: High Voltage” more of a porno than a real film. Even worse is that some of the strippers are shot in grisly ways for no reason other to give the film an excuse to get another close up of another pair of bare breasts.
Where the film finally crosses the line is when Chev needs to build up frictional electricity to keep his heart charged. He asks lover Eve (Amy Smart) for some friction and what ensues is a graphic sex scene that takes place in the middle of a horse race. It somehow escapes the NC-17 rating with some tactfully placed pixalization (although that’s the only thing tactful in the whole film). Yet the very next shot shows Eve admiring a horse penis as it jumps over the pair.
Going back to the Week End parallels, Crank: High Voltage is constantly breaking any possibility of immersion by reminding us that it’s a movie. One character introduces himself by saying he’s from Hollywood. Comment are made that Chev looks like that movie star. In one of the climatic fights, the entire film momentarily shifts visually to remind us that this entire film is indeed a film.
It would be better if the film didn’t remind us it was a film because it simply cannot do anything right when it comes to shooting the film. They can’t do something as simple as a phone conversation right. Composition and technique is lost on these adolescent filmmakers. Furthermore, it seems every other shot is at crotch height, looking upwards. For some reason the filmmakers don’t realize that these kinds of angles convey ideas, ideas they certainly don’t intend. Put simply, it’s a visual disaster.
Crank: High Voltage was made by a crass, mean-spirited group of filmmakers more interested in bood and boobs than good filmmaking. It’s like those teens who flip you off when you say “hello.” There’s no reason other than to be mindlessly rude. The closing shot of the film sets in concrete this intention. This entire movie has simply one thing to say: “F— You.”
This is not a film I find personally offensive in the same way I don’t find a stranger swearing a string of obscenities at me offensive. It’s simply mindless, unwarranted and only meant to elicit a rude reaction in turn. I do, however, find it an ugly and spiteful piece of filmmaking utterly devoid of any value.
© 2009 James Blake Ewing