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From Under A Rock: Crank

November 7, 2015 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
7.2
The 411 Rating
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From Under A Rock: Crank  

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There’s a first time for everything in a person’s life: there’s the first time you wake up to discover there’s been a lethal dose of adrenaline-based Chinese poison administered to you in your sleep. There’s also the first time you decide to fight it by keeping your adrenaline running non-stop for about seven hours. There’s the first time you kill your enemy in mid-air after falling out of a helicopter, and there’s a first time you survive that very same fall? Maybe? I mean, there’s a sequel, right?

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show (determined at the discretion of my writing partner, Aaron Hubbard and I in alternation). This column is a companion piece to my podcast of the same premise, which you can check out here.

Last week Aaron used his criminal brain to show Michael the 1931 Universal monster classic Frankenstein. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock for Jason Statham’s Crank.

Crank

Michael Ornelas: There’s something to be said about a crazy premise that just gives a movie its appeal. Snakes on a Plane is another guilty pleasure of mine just for that reason. In Crank, as soon as I saw the first trailer for it, I knew I had to see it. The crazy stuff that Chev Chelios does to keep his blood pumping is insane, often hilarious, and just plain creative. This movie is a blast, and while I wouldn’t put it in the same conversation as the all-time great movies, I feel this is a must-see just for its fun factor alone.

Aaron Hubbard: In my opinion, there’s three keys to making a good pure action movie. One is having a premise that is easy to understand and drives the action of a movie; Crank obviously delivers on that premise. The second is in having action that is fun to watch, well filmed and done with practical stunts whenever possible. Check again. And the last is that the main character needs to be played by an actor who is likable and believable and the role. Jason Statham may be the definitive “B Movie” action star of this generation, so obviously Crank‘s got that going for it. It’s a movie that knew exactly what it wanted to be and accomplished its goals very well, I think.

Michael: I know you and I rate movies on different criteria (excluding your requirements for action, because for me, I rate all movies according to two questions). For me, a movie’s quality is judged based on “Do I think the filmmaker’s made the movie they were going for?” and “Did I enjoy it/Was that idea worth seeing?” And again, Crank checks both of those boxes. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it should have won awards or anything, but it’s a favorite of mine. And upon rewatching it for this review, I actually liked some things about it a little less than I remember (plus there’s a certain homosexual slur that always knocks a movie down a little for me since it’s outdated now that we’re all a little less ignorant to its impact). You pointed out for me that the characters are a little flat and more like plot points than actual people, and I totally agree with that. Also, some of the editing choices make the movie a little disorienting. But I’d also argue that that’s the point so we’re put in Chev’s shoes. We need a shot of energy to get out of it, and that’s usually what happens.

Chelios

Aaron: I actually enjoyed the disorienting nature of the movie. It wasn’t enough to take me out of the movie, it was just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. And I will admit that if you’d have asked me to see this a few years ago, I’d probably hate it. But in the last year or so I’ve grown to appreciate the artistry in making good action movies, and I think this is really good for what it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and was surprised at how much I laughed. I just think that perhaps too much time was spent coming up with clever ideas to do with the plot, and not enough was spent on making characters fleshed out. The only reason I cared about Chev was that he was in a really messed up situation; I don’t feel like I know anything about him as a person. I think I’d actually like to see this idea revisited at some point and see if somebody can make the movie a little more balanced. It’s a fantastic plot concept.

Michael: Well, there is a sequel, so you actually CAN see it revisited! But I was pretty disappointed with it. I agree though. Literally all of Chelios’ characterization is strictly based on the situation he’s in, and if you take that away, you know pretty much nothing other than “hitman who wants out,” which in its own right would make a fascinating movie. I’m always on the lookout for good female characters in movies, and this movie terribly failed in that category. Amy Smart plays Chev’s girlfriend, who essentially serves two plot points: to have sex with him in public to get his heart rate going, and to blow him in a car to keep his heart rate going. There’s also a scene where she’s Natalya-Simonova-in-Goldeneye-N64 levels of “I’m just in the way, hope I don’t die!” So yeah, she’s helpless, and just there for sex (even if Smart plays it in a fun way that at least makes her likable).

Aaron: I agree with the assessment of Amy Smart’s character, but I will say that I actually believed that these two characters knew each other and enjoyed being around each other. So it’s already a better love story than Attack of the Clones.

Michael: GOT ‘IM!

Michael: I also want to point out how brilliant the camerawork in this movie is. Aside from the overhead shot where he’s falling down toward the city below, there is no green screen in this movie. Literally every single stunt was captured practically AND Jason Statham did them all on his own. This includes the shot we see as he’s about to hit the ground at the end where we see him falling from a backside view — he and his cameraman were suspended on a rig 200 feet in the air and both did a free fall to capture the footage. They did somewhere in the ballpark of 17 takes to capture it, too. Also one of the directors capture a lot of the fast-moving action footage on rollerblades, which is how he got an amazing cross-shot when Chelios was standing on the back of a motorcycle while riding it at full-speed. It’s captured from a back-right view and crosses over to a back-left view, which really impressed the studios when they saw the dailies for the shoot. I highly recommend checking out the DVD extras if you can find them (they may only be on the blu-ray, I’m not entirely sure, but that’s where I watched them).

Aaron: Like I said; Jason Statham is arguably the biggest name in B Action Movies in this century, and it’s largely because of films like this and Transporter. I firmly believe that if you’re going to be in action movies you should do as many of your own stunts as are safely possible. Statham seems to agree with that mindset.

Michael: And seeing all that went on behind-the-scenes definitely bumps my grade up a tiny bit. The story is a lot of fun, but the finished product isn’t a perfect film. It’s a fun ride full of action, with so many creative and exciting story beats to keep this man’s heart pumping. I still stand by my recommendation for this movie, and at the end of the day, I think it holds up overall (especially in the action department).

B

Aaron: Here’s a bit of insight into my grading process; I tend to settle with a letter grade first; a film may be A quality or B quality or whatever. Then I try to decide if it has enough flaws or enough excellence to give it a + or – grade. I had trouble deciding whether this was an exceptional C movie or a B movie that could have been better. Ultimately, I enjoyed the film and I’m glad I saw it, but I can’t see myself watching it again anytime soon.

B-

Michael: I’m happy with that rating. I haven’t watched in about seven years, so it’s definitely not something you binge over and over – there’s not much depth to it. But it’s a ton of fun.

Aaron: And still better than Attack of the Clones

If you were in Chev’s situation, what would you do to keep your heart beating?

Next week:

Aaron: Well. Now that we’ve both picked guilty pleasures, I might as well get us back to actual classic movies. One of my three favorites movies of all time is Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic classic, The Godfather, which I know you’ve seen. But I also know you haven’t seen its sequel, which I consider to be just as good and many consider to be even better.

Godfather Part 2

Michael: Yeeeee! I’m excited for this one as I’ve been meaning to watch it for years. My all-time favorite movies list has The Godfather sitting at number 3, and I’ve only seen that piece of art one time, so I’ll probably rewatch that too before starting this for our review next week. Of all the picks you’ve made so far for me, I think this is the one about which I’m the most excited.

Aaron: Yeah, you should definitely watch The Godfather again before trying to get through its sequel. There are so many characters and so many things going on that it’s easy to get lost; Part II kind of just throws you back in the world without making any attempts to catch you up to speed.

Michael: Crank: High Voltage does that too! Omg twinzies!

Aaron: … what?

Michael: My parents didn’t raise me well…

Godfather or Godfather: Part II – which one is the superior film in your opinion?

On this week’s edition of the “From Under A Rock” podcast, Michael selects Casino Royale in anticipation of the release of Spectre. And our guest Shea Jones dissects the ridiculousness of the poker played in that movie. It really bothers him…

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And if you want to read Aaron’s thoughts on movies, professional wrestling and comic books, check out The Shelf is Half Full.

7.2
The final score: review Good
The 411
Crank is a movie that’s not going to show up on anyone’s “Best Movies of All-Time” list, but it’s a blast to throw on every once in awhile and just enjoy the adrenaline rush. Chev Chelios is a badass turned up to 11, and while the characters are all lacking, the innovation involved in filming the movie along with its fun premise salvage its final rating quite a bit.
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