Jason Statham as Chev Chelios
Amy Smart as Eve
Jose Pablo Cantillo as Verona
Efren Ramirez as Kaylo
Dwight Yoakam as Doc Miles
Carlos Sanz as Carlito
Reno Wilson as Orlando
Edi Gathegi as Haitian Cabbie
Keone Young as Don Kim
Valarie Rae Miller as Chocolate

Directed by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

“Crank” is a funny and daring attempt to break the rules of the average Hollywood action movie without ignoring what makes them such mindless fun.

Hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) has been injected with a poison by an unhappy client that will kill him if he allows his heart rate to drop below a certain rate. Instead, Chelios does everything he can to live long enough to get revenge on the guy who did this to him, dragging his girlfriend (Amy Smart) and transvestite friend (Efren Ramirez) along for the ride.

Like a cross between “D.O.A.” and “Speed” with a little bit of “Oldboy” and Michael Douglas’ “Falling Down” thrown in for good measure, the directorial debut of commercial directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor is certainly not like the action movies we see every year. Really, it’s more like a high concept video game, which doesn’t give the viewer time to breathe or think once we learn how Jason Statham’s Chev Chelios has been injected with a poison that will kill him if he doesn’t maintain his adrenaline at a certain level.

Chelios is not exactly a role model. Besides being a hired assassin, he finds all sorts of bad ways to keep his adrenaline going, snorting and shooting up various substances including nose spray, and more mundane methods like drinking lots of Red Bull–surely the film’s key sponsor. His doctor, played by Dwight Yoakam, hooks him up with an artificial adrenaline pump, but trying to stay alive puts him at odds with the police, and the bad guys who’ve tried to kill him, aren’t content waiting for the poison to take effect. It doesn’t take long for Chelios to turn into a hero to the man on the street thanks to the endless news coverage.

Like in “Transporter 2,” Statham finds himself racing against time to find an antidote, but this time, he’s in L.A. instead of Miami, and we’re spared the bad dialogue and weak storytelling, as “Crank” makes very little attempt at exposition or character development. It’s all about the action and it really excels at it, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, especially when putting Statham into all sorts of embarrassing situations, like running around wearing nothing but a medical patient’s robe. Needless to say, we end up seeing too much of Statham’s backside for anyone’s taste.

Amy Smart plays Chev’s girlfriend, a ditzy blonde pothead, who spends most of the movie doing her best impression of Goldie Hawn in woman-in-peril mode, though she does add a sexy tone to the movie with the ways she tries to keep his adrenaline up. When all else fails, he jumps her in the middle of a crowded Chinatown sidewalk in a disturbing scene that makes you feel as if you’re watching a public rape; when she starts getting into it, you’re not quite sure whether to feel better about it either.

Fortunately, the dialogue is snappier than the normal action movie, always keeping its tongue firmly in cheek with only a few corny one-liners, which helps you to forgive the excessive amount of violence and gore. The humor in the movie is generally dark and when all else fails, an innocent bystander or two is shot for comic relief. There’s also Efren “Pedro” Ramirez as a gay club kid whose friendship with Chelios proves to be his undoing more than once.

Since “Crank” is more about the action than the writing or story, you have to be impressed by the cutting edge techniques used by directors Neveldine and Taylor to make it look unlike any other movie. It takes some time to get used to the jarring editing and camerawork, using everything from four-way split screens to video game inspired graphics to keep pushing the film’s frenetic pace. They do settle down with the crazy gimmicks as the movie goes along, but it makes for a strange experience, as does the bizarre choice in music. (When was the last time you heard Quiet Riot?)

On the flip side, the movie is filled with all sorts of bad stereotypes, particularly the Mexican gangsters, somewhat of a letdown considering how hard the filmmakers tried to avoid cliches otherwise. The movie sometimes forgets its own premise as Statham slows down to try to talk things out with the bad guys, but it leads to a great climax where he takes on all-comers. After a series of impressive stunts, the ending might not be so satisfying, but you have to give the filmmakers props for taking such a daring risk.

The Bottom Line:
Calling this movie an adrenaline rush would be far too obvious, but it’s another great action vehicle for Jason Statham, one that wouldn’t have worked half as well with anyone else. Not everyone is going to appreciate the dark humor, but it’s nice to have a balls-out action movie that doesn’t waste time with dialogue or exposition to get from Point A to Point B.