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Movie Review: Crank

“Time’s up!”

As Billie said, Crank is “sort of like Speed but with Statham playing the part of the bus.”

I can’t top that.

Crank is a 2006 movie about Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) as a hitman who crosses the wrong people and gets dosed with a synthetic drug that will kill him unless he keeps his adrenaline up. He must figure out how to live long enough to apologize to his girlfriend and get revenge. The film lives up to its name.

Like any good Jason Statham character, Chev uses a variety of techniques to maintain his life: cocaine, Red Bull, epinephrine, nasal spray, some drug he got from a cabbie in a little brown bottle, burning his hand in a waffle iron while kindly resetting his girlfriend's microwave clock, defibrillation (yes, the paddles, in a hospital!), receiving oral sex while driving, having sex in public, and rocking out to "Achy-Breaky Heart.”

To say this movie is over-the-top undersells how far over the top and around the other side it goes. Co-directors, and co-writers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are known, according to Wikipedia, for doing much of their own camera work: "As camera operators, the duo are known for their ‘roller dolly’ technique, which involves the camera shooting the film while on rollerblades." I really wish I'd read that before watching the film to see if I could identify the rollerblade shots.

Here's what I did notice of the cinematography: split screen, wipes, Dutch tilts, sepia filter, overexposure, lens flare, green screen, and—this was so weird—screenshots of Google maps with the Google watermark visible in the lower right corner to indicate a shift from one place to another. Maybe they took the screenshots while wearing rollerblades?

Parts of the film felt like a knock-off of David Fincher, other parts reminded me of those middling 90s movie targeted towards precisely my demographic: Go, Two Days in the Valley, Trigger Effect, and even the awful Michael Douglas movie Falling Down (okay, I don’t think that one was targeted towards my little riot-grrl teenage self).

The thing is: I like those movies (not Falling Down), and I like this one. I loved the little details, like how Jason Statham’s girlfriend (played by Amy Smart) would get distracted at the weirdest times. At one point, while they’re running from a bunch of gangsters, having just escaped a deadly warehouse shootout above a garment factory, she realizes she forgot to take her birth-control pill and stops to look for the packet in her very large purse.

Statham’s character isn’t fleshed out, but you can still see how he cares about (some) people and takes care of them; they try to take care of him, too. A brief hallucinatory sequence in which Statham imagines a Japanese businessman in an elevator taking on the personae of all the negative self-talk he engages in humanizes him a bit while still providing a laugh. I mean, wouldn’t we all imagine being hectored by our parents for our deep personal failures with only a few hours to live?

Crank also manages to capture an ineffable quality of Southern California life, especially pre-smartphone. We’re the culture that pioneered a love of freeway chases, and our willingness to enjoy an illicit spectacle while doing absolutely nothing about it is, I think, a regional specialty that often goes unnoticed. During the garment-factory shootout, none of the seamstresses bother to stop sewing until the bullets start flying. When Jason Statham and Amy Smart have try-hard, fail-soft sex in public in Chinatown, the crowd cheers or groans as appropriate to the circumstances. Later, there’s a brief shot of three gardeners impassively watching a police motorcycle burn on the lawn they’re supposed to be mowing. “This again?” their faces ask.

Ultimately, though, this movie is about Jason Statham doing what he does best: violent competence porn. If Matt Damon’s character in The Martian introduced us all to the idea of regular, goodhearted competence porn, then we can say that Jason Statham is Matt Damon’s evil twin. Driving, finding adrenaline, shooting people, hitting people, overdoing nasal spray to stay alive... there’s nothing that Jason Statham is bad at, even while almost dying.

There’s probably one last question on your mind, as you head to the end of this review: Did Jason Statham dive in this movie?
  • Yes, sort of. There’s one scene where he and another character tread water while having a conversation. Jason Statham is wearing clothes and shoes, so that must have been really difficult.
  • There’s another scene where Jason Statham, wearing nothing but a badly tied hospital gown, dives off the police motorcycle he stole, into a crowded restaurant patio.

Neither scenario lived up to the beauty of his dive in The Meg, but I’ll still give this film: Three out of four beating hearts.

Josie Kafka would like to thank Billie for providing the opening line to this review, Logan for encouraging me to watch it (we have similar tastes!), and her real-life friend Amy for looking up Jason Statham on IMDb during a long walk and telling me which films to watch and which ones to avoid.


  1. Lol, was pleasantly surprised to see this here today. This is a movie that knows exactly what it's trying to be, and does its job with pride and joy. That part where he shoots a guy with a finger gun and the guy actually gets shot, briefly scaring Verona into thinking Chev has supernatural powers... which, he kinda does. So much macabre stylistic wackiness in these movies.

    If you dug this, you'll probably get a kick out of the sequel as well. It ups the ante on all fronts.

    And yes, Billie's description of the movie is perfect.

  2. Josie, thank you so much for reviewing this movie. I loved what you wrote.

    What made me laugh out loud was "our willingness to enjoy an illicit spectacle while doing absolutely nothing about it is, I think, a regional specialty that often goes unnoticed."

    I miss California.

  3. Billie, I was thinking of you when I wrote that line. You were the one who made me realize it, years ago when I told you a wacky story of something I'd seen and you pointed out it was a very California experience.

    1. I did? Wow, I don't remember that. But it sounds like me.

  4. It was so long ago that I doubt we still have the email, but this was the story:

    One summer night--technically, very early one summer morning--I had terrible insomnia and went outside to smoke. (Yes, smoking is bad.)

    I had a spot at the back of my apartment building, which intersected with the back of two other apartment buildings. All fenced.

    I heard a rustling and saw a dim gray shape on one of the fences, but I assumed it was just a nocturnal animal.

    But the rustling got louder, and I heard a voice from someone above me (insomniacs unite!) say "Hey, man, you know you're on camera, right?"

    At that point I realized the dim gray shape was a person, trying desperately to hop a fence. He got over one, realized he was still trapped in the back of an apartment building, and proceeded to climb over the fence of my apartment building.

    He did, and then he spotted me. "Sorry, miss," he said. "Please excuse me." And he took off running towards freedom.


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