Minutia Madness: Crank Edition
By Bret Dorman
(As always, SPOILERS! may apply to the movie in discussion.)Everyone knows what makes a movie good. Blurbs like “compelling”, “powerful”, and “explosive non stop thrill ride that will leave you on the edge of your seat!” are common place on movie posters. In reviews (including my own) people point out how the direction is “great”, how the writing is “awesome”, and how the acting is “wonderful”. Every once in a while you can find a really great essay from a smart film critic (a real one) or film maker that actually explains why a movie is good and helps you as a viewer become a better film watcher.
But what about those small moments that fall in between the cracks? I understand the need to talk about a movie in the broad sense, its the easiest most SPOILER! free way of saying if you liked or didn’t like a movie. I prefer people to talk in specifics, to actually know why something is good or bad. But this goes beyond all that. This is blowing the tiniest detail way out of proportion. This is what makes me a film nerd. This is Minutia Madness!!!
Written and Directed by Neveldine/Taylor
The ‘theme’ of Crank is forward momentum. If Chev Chelios stops, he dies. More specifically, if he stops doing the craziest shit you can think of, he dies. And once Chelios is told that there is no way he can live, he takes it pretty well. His mission isn’t a cure. His end game isn’t to spend the most amount of time with the one he loves doing the things he loves. His goal is revenge. If he’s going to die, he’s going to make damn well sure he kills the bastard who injected him with that Chinese shit. That’ll show everyone else you don’t mess with Chelios. Even if he’s pancaked on the pavement at the end. You. Don’t. Mess. With. Chev. Chelios. Period.
So let’s take a look at this scene here. One of the quieter moments of Crank lasts just a minute, as Chelios existentially stares at an elderly man who is sickly and dying. If you’re going to go out, might as well go out fighting, with a bang (or in Chev’s case a very high altitude helicopter fall). This gives Chev the PERFECT opportunity to cleverly disguise himself as a patient wearing a hospital gown, boots, and lugging around a 9 mil. Despite this chameleon-like trickery, the cops are still *somehow* able to spot him as the pissed off dude running amok. Upon being followed, Chev takes off and evenutally finds some paramedics who might be able to give him some e-pi-neph-rine (, man) as well as some juice…
That shot that is 25 seconds in. That is what Crank is all about. In any other action movie, the character would just run through some hallways while the camera looks on. IF there were people in that hallway, he might shout out for them to move. They would probably move out of the way. IF they didn’t, he would just run around them. PERHAPS he would shove into them just a little bit. But not Chev Chelios. No. He maintains FULL SPEED, jumping onto the hand rail at waist height and plows through the guy attached to an IV. That AND the camera maintains FULL SPEED the entire shot. That extra little flair of jumping his way through people shows that this movie is not concerned with doing things the “normal” way. The moment Crank injects its main character with with a drug that requires constant adrenaline, it delivers on the proposed mayhem. Where most movies try to explain and then sell you on their premise, Crank spends its entire runtime playing with it.Crank plays more like a comedy sketch show with a shot of adrenaline right to its action movie heart. Between shootouts and car chases, there is Dwight Yoakam and boner jokes. Drugs are used and encouraged to stay alive. Badguys are brutally beaten and dismembered. Innocent people explode into chunks as they are shot multiple times and used as shields. Public displays of sex are cheered on by underage schoolgirls. And did I mention the boner jokes? Crank doesn’t just thrown logic out the window. It throws logic down to the ground, pummels it in the face, shoots it in the knee caps, drags it behind a car at high speeds, then farts on it, and finally throws it not out, but through the window of a very high rise building… The movie may be immoral, but it is also aggressively entertaining.
Everyone complains that movies are too unoriginal these days. There are too many remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings. Crank isn’t good because its not based on another movie or video game, but because its writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor get that people want to have a good time at the movies. All the action movies that have come before Crank serve as a blueprint for the motivations of its main character and his actions. Cinematic shortcuts are taken so that the main character is afforded the luxury of being able to be on the movie for as much of the 88 minute runtime as possible. And if you’re going to have a movie with a plot as thin as Crank‘s, you have to make up for it in other ways. Having a character run around for an hour and a half is boring. Having a character sprint, burst, chop, snort, fuck, shoot, and wall-jump-blast his way for that time is relentlessly absurd. And us action fans find absurdity entertaining.The opening 15 minutes of Crank, from when he wakes up to when he gets to the first bar/club he goes to, are among some of the strongest minutes of visceral cinema I’ve ever seen. The camera moves as if Sam Raimi was operating it on speed. The editing is chaotic, yet never gets in the way of the action or actors. The movie might seem like a cartoon, but I grew up on the violent and silly shorts of Looney Tunes. Crank is not the next evolution of the action genre, but it definitely has its place on the family tree, branching out into cinematic chaos like no other movie has the balls, or boners, to do.
So what do you think? Does Chelios’ extra little jump give this movie the edge over others? Or am I just crazy for focusing on this minute detail?