Sunday, December 10, 2006


In Hollywood, a thirty second 'pitch' can make or break careers. Time is money and all that, so if large bellied cigar-smoking Hollyood fat cats cannot digest the entire premise of your movie idea in thirty seconds flat, chances are they won't give you the sacred 'green-light'. If I was ever in the unenviable position of needing to pitch a movie idea to a Weinstein or one of his mogul cronies, I think I'd be comfortable if it was something like Crank, confident even. So my pitch for this one would go as follows:

"Ok, Harvey baby, this is a sure-fire winner. Stick with me now, ok? Action movie. Hard core. No special effects though, gritty violence, with a Grand Theft Auto sense of humour, you got me? (For the kids these days, know what I'm saying?) Ok, the story, here it is: a guy wakes up. He's a hitman, but he's been poisoned and is going to die unless he finds an antidote. But here's the thing: the only way he can stop the poison from working is to keep his adrenaline levels as high as he can! So this guy (we're thinking Jason Statham, you know, the big british kid) he's got to keep himself pepped up, moving fast and get into as many dangerous situations as he can, just to stay alive."

I imagine Harvey slowly raising an eyebrow, puffing on his Dominican stogie, and asking "how much?" or possibly "will there be titties?".

A simple idea then. But to really profit from a good idea, you need all the elements of your movie to pull together, and in this case, it seems to have happened. Crank is a mature action movie, and is all too aware of it's reason for being. Put quite simply, this is lively, ballsy entertainment. Jason Statham is perfect in the lead role of the hitman who has been double-crossed, and now needs to max his adrenaline to survive. Much has been made of Daniel Craig's screen presence lately, but Statham really makes a case for himself as a leading man in Crank. In Munich, I got the sense that Craig was pretty dangerous, and this convinced me of his Bond credentials (Casino Royale review to follow folks!) However, Statham is as convincing a deranged lunatic as any I've seen on screen recently. He also looks like he would break you in two, a quality lead for an actioner like this.

It's interesting to chart the progress of someone trying to make it big in Hollywood. Statham has taken a route that is difficult territory: he wants to be an action hero. Looking at the choices he has made though, I have to say I think he's doing a pretty good job. Since 'Lock Stock' and 'Snatch' he's picked his roles carefully, and has craftily cultivated an image of himself as the next Bruce Willis (but more British). Movies like 'The One', 'The Transporter' and 'Mean Machine' are gradually making Jason Statham a very bankable star. Hollywood likes bankable stars. Watch this space folks, for he'll be earning $20 million a picture soon.

Anyway, back to Crank. The action scenes are very well constructed, in that there is no reliance on intricate special effects sequences, no martial arts, no cyborgs, there aren't even many big guns to speak of. Crank's action relies on primarily on car chases and in-your-face fist fights to drive the adrenaline levels up.

However, the action alone isn't all there is, the sense of humour on display in Crank is really excellent. There are some great lines, and not of the Arnie-style catchphrase variety, genuinely good lines. Watch out for when Statham asks his girlfriend to "save my life baby", priceless!

Amy Smart has a nice turn in Crank as Statham's ditzy stoner girlfriend, and although she's not the feminist's idea of a three-dimensional character, she's a welcome foil to Statham's driven rampaging.

Much of the action takes place while Statham is busy sorting out his next move on his mobile phone, and this device means that the audience has to multi-task, taking in the action while registering the dialogue. It's an interesting technique, and means that even though the action is impressive, it never dominates proceedings at the expense of a good one-liner or more importantly, a plot!

If this movie was a man, it would be 'Duffman', saying 'booyah" repeatedly, and thrusting his pelvis like Gary Neville at Anfield. Watching Crank, I found myself laughing out loud more than once, and the action sequences genuinely do get the adrenaline levels going. This is a real alpha male of a movie, and definitely worthy of a look.

Verdict: Booyah! If you're looking for an hour and a half of polished action with a great sense of humour, then you really could do a lot worse than Crank.
Rating: 8/10

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