‘Crank: High Voltage’ movie review: Jason Statham sequel dials it up to 11

“He was dead… But he got better.” If you didn’t like the first Crank, be sure to stay away from Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor’s sequel Crank: High Voltage, which is essentially the same movie. 

It’s taken up a notch, I suppose: bigger and faster, with more sex and violence, but it also feels less fresh this time around. And make no mistake about it: Crank 2 is trash, but those who can appreciate trash will find a lot to appreciate here. 

We pick up right where Crank left off, as Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) falls thousands of feet from a helicopter, bounces off a car, and lands on the street. Still alive, of course, he’s scooped up by the Chinese mafia, who harvest his heart, replace it with a battery-powered one, and keep him alive so they can harvest his other organs (you see, Chev survived the ancient Chinese poison given to him in the first film and his organs are now regarded as superhuman and highly desirable. Or something like that.) 

Chev eventually busts out, and now he’s gotta find his old heart; the battery quickly dies on this new one, and he can only be kept alive by occasional jolts of electricity. This leads to such scenes as Chev, crippled by a slowly fading artificial heart, getting a nightstick beatdown by a number of police officers, until one of them decides to taser him; instantly regenerated, he opens up a can of whoop ass. 

Along Chev’s journey, he runs across: Asian hooker Ria (Bai Ling), who he saves from an unsatisfied customer; his wife (Amy Smart), who thought he was dead and is now performing in a strip club for boyfriend Randy (Corey Haim, with an impressive mullet); Johnny Vang (Art Hsu), a character bearing some resemblance to Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer who seems to be carrying around Chev’s heart in a lunchbox; Venus (Efren Ramirez), the Tourette’s-impaired twin brother of a character killed in the last film seeking revenge; Poon Dong (a Charlie Chan-ed David Carradine, in one of his last mainstream roles), who wants Chev’s heart; some Mexican gangsters, including Chico (Joseph Julian Soria), who are chasing down Chev; and their leader, El Huron (Clifton Collins Jr.), who is seeking revenge on Chev for killing his brothers in the previous film. 

As in Crank, Chev occasionally calls Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) for advice regarding his unusual situation. Best scenes: an impromptu, off-the-cuff Godzilla fight between Chev and Johnny Vang, which involves two actors dressed in exaggerated suits that resemble the characters fighting over a miniature electric power plant; a diversion via picketing porn actors on strike (“No! No! We won’t blow!”), which features a number of actual porn stars (including, of course, Ron Jeremy); and a 1980s talk show featuring a young, out-of-control Chev and his mother (played by Geri Halliwell). 

Directors Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor have a certain ineptitude when it comes to filmmaking, which they wield as unbridled strength. The action scenes here – and really, the film is just one big action scene – are poorly staged and choreographed and abruptly edited without concern for continuity; we never have a real grasp of what’s going on, where the characters stand in relation to their surroundings. 

But the film throws everything at you fast and loose, and has this uninterrupted manic energy that almost – almost – replaces the kind of suspense generated by genuine filmmaking skill. 

You’ll compare the Crank films to Shoot ‘Em Up, and I’ll rate them about the same, but Michael Davis’ film was professionally, inventively staged and shot yet was missing this energy. 

Can’t have it both ways, I guess, at least in B-movie action fests. You need to have a certain level of fondness for garbage to appreciate the Crank films; Crank 2 is – and I believe the Lloyd Kaufman cameo confirms it – a tribute to Troma pictures, including the Toxic Avenger films.

It’s poorly made, even offensive (particularly in the treatment of women), but ingratiating and eager to please. No fan of the first film will walk away unsatisfied.

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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