Crank High Voltage (2009)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller  |   Release Date - Apr 17, 2009 (USA)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jeremy Wheeler

Juiced-up insanity reigns supreme in this follow-up to 2006's over-the-top Jason Statham action bonanza that has thrown audiences into fist-pumping frenzies. This time, the adrenalized formula is even more unpredictable, with twists, turns, curves, and splurges taking the viewer on a roller-coaster ride unlike any other. No doubt about it, this is the equivalent of free jazz for the ADD-addled American class of cinemaniacs looking for the newest fix of in-your-face entertainment -- which means the meek-hearted should not apply. Like a cinematic speedball straight to the jugular, Crank High Voltage proves that this series is the King of No Rules Cinema, a rare film that treats its constituents to an experience akin to a roller coaster about to go off the rails at any point. Unpredictable, unhinged, and completely unconcerned with whom it may offend, the sequel draws a line between generational gaps of ticket buyers and whizzes in the face of those who aren't already sold on the exploits of Mr. Chev Chelios, the man with the indestructible heart.

When audiences last saw Chev (Jason Statham), he had beaten his foe in a midair fight after jumping out of a helicopter. While still in freefall, the former hitman made one last call to his girlfriend Eve's (Amy Smart) answering machine, admitting to all of the misdeeds he had done before going splat on the pavement, and winking just afterward to leave people wondering if he was still alive. Well wonder no more! Part 2 opens with a gang literally shoveling him off the street and locking him away for three months, during which time his heart is taken out and replaced with an electrically charged one. Now, outfitted with a battery pack and revenge on his mind, Chev once again heads out into Los Angeles in search of his plus-sized ticker, with his buddy Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) just a phone call away ready to fix him back up to live and die another day.

If you think the plot is ridiculous, it's because it is. So far, both Crank films have thrived on absurdity, which is okay since nothing is taken too seriously in either of them. What filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor do take seriously is a yearning to shake things up -- both in style and in structure. This is moviemaking in its purest, most punk-rock sense. Shooting Crank 2 with consumer-grade cameras (some/most of which were destroyed during the shoot), the duo seems to have hijacked Hollywood with their fearless attitude, a contagion that has seemingly seeped into the talent in front of their lenses as well. For his part, Statham doesn't bat an eye through all of the insanity that his leaders have cooked up for him. The same goes for Amy Smart, who takes on the follow-up with a strength and air of sexuality merely hinted at in the first film. Even David Carradine joins in on the fun (looking straight out of Big Trouble in Little China as he does it), filling the role of a sadly underused villain who still adds enough wildness to help carry the colorful supporting cast, which includes Bai Ling, Corey Haim, and Efren Ramirez.

New to the Crank scene is musician Mike Patton, whose love for both hard-driving rock and classic film scores gives the film exactly the kind of manic metal-meets-Ennio Morricone aesthetic that fits perfectly with the film's jarring style. With the help of Patton and everyone who was game enough to go along with this wild ride, High Voltage effectively raises the bar for what can be done when madmen take the helm of a studio picture. Loud enough to blow your eardrums, with enough frenzied visuals to keep your eyes bolted to the big screen, Crank 2 is a testimonial for no-holds-barred outrageous cinema -- a fact that should whole-heartedly please its open-armed admirers.