C is for… Crank
After an unanticipated hiatus due to the library not supplying the DVD I requested, I am excited to finally present you with Crank. If Commando hadn’t been the supreme obvious choice for my first C movie, I would have done Crank in the first round of movies. I enjoyed it when I saw it when it came out, and enjoyed its sequel as well. It just…stood out, somehow, as a different sort of film–a serious (in an action movie kind of way) storyline with a heck of a lot of humor.
Crank, directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, stars Jason Statham as Chev Chelios, a professional hitman poisoned with “that Chinese shit” (aka the Beijing cocktail) by small time gang member Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). The poison is expected to kill Chelios within an hour, but he can postpone his death by keeping up his adrenaline level, thereby flushing the poison through his system so it doesn’t bind to his adrenal glands. This results in a chase around Los Angeles as Chelios tries to find Verona to enact his revenge.
As he hunts down Verona with the help of various acquaintances including his boss Carlito (Carlos Sanz) and his friend (?) Kaylo (Efren Ramirez), he gets tips on how to keep up his heart rate from his doctor, played by Dwight Yoakam. After he lengthens his life by stealing epinephrine from a hospital, he has a moment of clarity where he explains to his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) that he is a professional killer. She doesn’t believe him. For some reason.
Kaylo eventually calls Chelios to tell him he knows where Verona is, and Chelios goes to meet him, only to find Kaylo dead on orders of Carlito. Chelios realizes that Verona’s claim that he and Carlito “are boys” is factual, and decides to take both of them out at Carlito’s penthouse. Here, the man who Chelios supposedly killed (Don Kim, played by Keone Young), whose death was the reason for the hit put out on him, starts a gunfight.
Verona kills Carlito, and Chelios and Verona engage in a fistfight while hanging out of a helicopter. Chelios is able to kill Verona, and while he falls to to his death he leaves a peaceful message for Eve on her answering machine.
I don’t normally like movies where the main character dies at the end, but this one was so different and fun and, well, adrenaline-rush-inducing, that I can’t help it. I think it was the first time I had ever seen Jason Statham in anything, and considering he’s in every single scene, it’s a pretty good introduction. The film is simly different, and has a lot of good things going for it including its action, humor, and soundtrack.
On to the criteria!
A is for… Accents
Jason Statham of course has his British accent, but it’s not explained why he’s a Brit working as a hitman for a Spanish man and killing Chinese men in Los Angeles.
Verona and Carlito are Hispanic.
Don Kim only speaks a few lines, but has his Chinese accent.
B is for… Bad Guys
What’s interesting is that the film is told literally from Chelios’s point of view a lot of the time, and the other shots focus on him, so the viewer doesn’t really know much about the other characters other than Chelios’s relationship with them.
We know Verona poisoned him, and eventually learn Carlito ordered that hit.
Carlito is who Chelios worked for, and orders the hit on Kaylo once Chelios’s rampage through Los Angeles to find Verona gets too out of hand.
Don Kim is a Triad drug lord that Carlito wanted to get rid of.
C is for… Chases
The whole film can be viewed as a sort of chase, as Chelios tries to outrace his dying heart.
The police chase Chelios through a mall, which is hilarious because the viewer never really sees him enter the mall, just him being in it after speaking with his doctor and explaining that’s where he is.
Chelios gets chased by the cops through the hospital.
Chelios gets chased by thugs at Don Kim’s shirt factory, first on foot and then away from the factory by car.
D is for… Damsels
The only woman in the film other than the doctor’s answering service (Valarie Rae Miller) is Chelios’s girlfriend Eve. She seems very sweet, if a bit ditzy. Amazingly she has absolutely no idea that her boyfriend is a hitman; he told her he designed video games. Once she believes him, she becomes vocal about it, and is saddened by his impending death.
Of note is that Carlito’s penthouse is decorated by women sitting in clear plastic spheres, purely as decoration. It’s unclear if these women alternate with the ones who get to sit around the pool.
E is for… Explosions
The only sort of explosion is the police motorcycle that catches fire.
F is for… Flashbacks
No flashbacks, just rehashing the video Verona made.
Well, Kaylo has a flashback to the previous night in a drag club.
G is for… Guns
Not surprisingly, Chelios carries a handgun around with him.
When he confronts Orlando (Reno Wilson) in the bathroom of his club, Reno’s posse shows up, all of them with handguns pointed at Chelios.
Some of the thugs at Carlito’s penthouse have rifles.
Verona’s brother winds his way through a restaurant kitchen with his gun, and Chelios ultimately uses this gun to kill the brother.
It’s not clear where Chelios thought he’d hide his weapon when he changed into the hospital gown, and it’s actually pretty funny the way he has it tucked into his armpit.
He steals a motorcycle cop’s handgun as a distraction so he can steal the motorcycle.
There’s a shootout above Don Kim’s shirt factory between Chelios and Carlito’s thugs.
The climactic shootout of course between Chelios and Don Kim against Verona, Carlito, and his men.
Verona shoots Carlito point blank in the chest.
H is for… Helicopters
Carlito has a helicopter on the roof of his penthouse, and later on in the film it’s where Chelios makes his last stand against Verona.
I is for… Improvisation
Throughout the film Chelios must improvise ways to keep up his adrenaline level:
-a gang fight
-headbanging to “Achy Breaky Heart,” of all things
-energy drinks and packets
-nasal spray with epinephrine in it
-he has a nurse shock him with a defibrillator
-the entire epinephrine syringe
-standing on a moving motorcycle
-burning his hand in a waffle iron
-synthetic ephedrine through an insulin pump
In addition to these ways to keep himself alive, he must also do the usual action hero thing and use his environment to his advantage:
-steals a cab and distracts the crowd by yelling that the driver is part of Al-Qaeda
-uses a cleaver to chop off Verona’s brother’s hand
-steals the motorcycle cop’s gun, then throws it away to distract him
-spills the contents of Eve’s purse to distract her from him killing a thug
-shoves a thug’s hand through a sewing machine
-uses a wine bottle as a projectile
J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects
When driving through the mall he crashes through various displays and kiosks.
He crashes his stolen motorcycle and smashes into the tables outside a cafe.
K is for… Kill Count
The second thug at Eve’s apartment (and he seriously injured the first one).
The thug on the roof of the shirt factory. He clearly knew him.
At least two thugs at the shirt factory. After that, it’s hard to determine who he kills or just injures.
L is for… Limitations
Obviously Chelios has the mother of all distractions while he’s running around Los Angeles–he has to keep running or he’ll die.
His judgment is also clouded by his obvious and all encompassing need for revenge.
He has a very tight time limit, which means he’s not doing anything carefully and has the police looking for the guy rampaging through LA.
M is for… Motivation
Verona wants to get rid of Chelios for the hit he supposedly completed against Don Kim. After Chelios kills his brother, he wants to kill Chelios for revenge.
Chelios wants to stay alive, or at least prolong the inevitable until he can get revenge on Verona.
Carlito explains that Don Kim was supposed to get his bullets, and in return Hong Kong would get a goat (Chelios) to take the fall.
N is for… Negotiation
Chelios tells Orlando, “Tell me where he is, or I’ll blow your brains through the fucking toilet.”
Chelios tells Don Kim to disappear for 48 hours or he’ll complete the hit.
Chelios tells Verona to meet him in order to get his brother’s necklace back, or he’ll give it to a prostitute.
O is for… One Liners
The doctor’s answering service: Spell that for me.
Chelios: D-E-A-D, Chelios.
Kaylo: Where are we?
Chelios: I’m dead, and you’re simple.
Chelios: I’m going to get that fucker if it’s the last thing I do. …It might be the last thing I do.
Verona: We’re tight.
Chelios: You haven’t been tight since your brother fucked you in third grade.
Chelios: I’m looking for something that starts with an E.
Eve: Don’t talk to him like that–My boyfriend kills people!!
P is for… Profession
Chelios is a professional killer, and does work for Carlito specifically, and in general he “freelances for a major West Coast crime syndicate.” He was assigned to kill Don Kim, but the supposed hit brought too much attention from Hong Kong, so he had to die himself.
One of the funniest lines in the movie is when he tells Eve, “You know I told you I was a video game programmer. …That was a lie.”
Q is for… Quagmire
Throughout most of the movie Chelios can be considered to be in a quagmire, what with the time limit, mission he set for himself, the fact that he has to keep moving or die, and just the sheer amount he has to improvise and make things up as he singlemindedly goes to find Verona.
R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief
The basic idea is probably real enough, but the film plays fast and loose with how well each method of maintaining his adrenaline would work. This is one of those movies where the viewer has to “just go with it.”
S is for… Sidekicks
Kaylo’s relationship to Chelios is unclear–is he a friend? Partner? Coworker? All the viewer really knows about him is he enjoys drag and tacos. He dies needlessly and horribly.
The doctor is readily on the phone with Chelios, but it’s unclear what type of doctor he is, or if he’s a real doctor, or if he only works with the criminal element. He does his job, though, keeping Chelios alive long enough for him to kill Verona.
T is for… Technology
We’re finally getting to the point of technology where seeing a DVD in a film is distracting because of the antiquated tech.
The only way Chelios is able to accomplish anything is because he has a cellphone. He never would have been able to stay alive as long as he did either with his own limited knowledge, or by having to stop constantly to call people. He even makes a point, in his first message to Eve, that she needs a cellphone.
Verona is in the backseat of an SUV with TVs in the backs of the front seats, and his thug is playing a videogame on one.
U is for… Unexpected Romance
Unlike most of the films reviewed on this site, the main character has a girlfriend whom he seems to really love and care about, enough to run away with her, but not enough to leave her out of his torrid business.
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
Chelios drives his car through a mall. He also crashes a motorcycle. He’s not really using the vehicles as weapons, but he does make a mess.
W is for… Winning
Chelios engages in a standoff with Carlito and Verona. He mimes shooting a thug with his finger, but the man is actually shot by Don Kim, who has teamed up with Chelios. There’s a massive shootout on the roof of the penthouse.
Carlito’s helicopter lands and he climbs in, only to be shot by Verona. Verona throws him out and takes his place, but Chelios is able to grab onto the railings as the helicopter lifts off the roof.
After an intense fistfight, considering Chelios is barely alive and Verona had shot off most of the fingers on his left hand, Chelios pulls Verona from the helicopter. As they fall, he breaks Verona’s neck.
Chelios continues to fall, and leaves a rather sweet message on Eve’s answering machine. The last shot of the film is him landing on a car in the street and bouncing off of it and out of frame, then landing facing the camera. He blinks, the film cuts to black, and there’s the sound of one heartbeat.
It’s a bit of a downer ending until the viewer remembers there’s a sequel (one that was just as entertaining as the first film).
X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor
Chelios probably should have sought medical attention from the second he realized Verona injected him with poison. But if he did that he wouldn’t have been able to hunt down Verona.
While his heart is alternately racing and stopping, Chelios is in a lot of fist- and gunfights, and does get banged up.
He crashes that police motorcycle while still wearing the hospital gown. He should be in a lot of pain and probably be bleeding.
There’s no way he’d be able to function well and fight the way he does after burning his hand in the waffle iron.
He is SHOT IN THE BUTT and keeps on running. The doc does give him meth later and likely stitches him up, but he’s got to be in some level of pain.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
Chelios was contracted to kill a guy he shouldn’t have been contracted to kill, which is why Verona poisoned him.
In an interesting turn of events, Chelios likely only lives to kill Verona because Don Kim is still alive and helps him at the penthouse.
Z is for… Zone, In The
Chelios is seemingly always in his element–The entire movie sort of plays out as a preparation montage seen in other action movies. He’s always a step in the right direction, planning where he’s going next or acting immediately on the information he’s given. There aren’t a lot of wasted minutes because he doesn’t have any.
It’s more helpful to point out when he isn’t in the Zone, because he’s hilarious awkward when he’s not trying to be the ass-kicking hitman, such as when he’s trying to be a regular boyfriend in Eve’s apartment (fixing the microwave), or when he standing in line at the hospital pharmacy. He looks much more comfortable rampaging through the convenience store in the beginning of the film, or using Kaylo’s body for a shield in the shirt factory, than he does being a normal guy. He even rocks the hospital gown covering his erection.
I enjoyed this movie when it came out, and I enjoyed watching it again for this review. It’s surprisingly funny, has a lot of action, and even though he’s kind of a scumbag, you care about the main character.
The soundtrack is great. There are a few outlier songs, including “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Let’s Get It On,” but the music really fits the action on the screen and gets the viewer revved up.
There’s a clear videogame feel to the film, from the 8-bit design credits, to the words occasionally put on the screen, to the post-credit scene that actually depicts Chelios as a videogame character. It’s a unique way to tell the story of an action movie that isn’t actually about video games.
I remember finding his name distracting the first time I saw it, and remembering that was distracting now. “Chev Chelios” is too similar to “Chris Chelios,” a professional hockey player around the time the film came out, or even before. Neither here nor there, just kind of distracting.
Some of the shaky camerawork is reminiscent of Saw, particularly the scenes in the latter where the victims are first discovering they’re in a trap, and also when James Wan and Leigh Whannel had to make it look like they were filming a sort of car race with two stationary cars. The plotline is reminiscent of the old film DOA, except instead of having a couple days to figure out who killed him, Chelios has an hour to figure out how to kill Verona. Other parts, specifically the running montage after he injects himself with the epinephrine, and when he’s walking around with the erection, are reminiscent of segments on Jackass. Watching the film is also like watching someone play Grand Theft Auto.
Snorting coke off the bathroom floor of a club? So incredibly gross. It’s unclear if Orlando is grossed out at that point because of the snorting it off the floor thing, or because he thinks Chelios’s hands are shaking and he spills it because he needs a hit so bad.
Chelios’s phone’s ringtone was incredibly annoying, but I can only surmise it was chosen to represent Chelios’s heart–it starts out strong, the fades away as it continues.
The many different uses of camera techniques and editing really add to the frenetic pace of the film, and always keep it visually interesting and different. There’s a lot of different sorts of camera angles, security footage, split screens, Google Maps establishing shots, text printed on the screen, and random screens and visuals throughout. A lot of work was put into having the visuals match the theme and the music match them both.
Crank is a very fun film, and definitely worth at least one viewing.