High Voltage: Nothing’ shocking in pointless Crank sequel

by Glen Baity

Imagine you asked a group of people to describe their favorite movie, and your sampling was drawn entirely from the crowds at an Insane Clown Posse concert and a hardcore backyard wrestling match. Sure, the popularity of both these phenomena has waned over the past few years, but I imagine you could probably still find the two events happening at the same time somewhere. Then imagine that you took those descriptions, shaved off the redundancies and wrote a script, and from that, made a movie packed with violence, corny jokes and pointless mayhem. Crank: High Voltage would be the sequel to that movie. If you saw the first one, you might remember that the hero, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) died at the end, and he didn’t die quietly. He fell from a helicopter hovering very, very high over Los Angeles. How high was it? He had time to break his enemy’s neck mid-freefall and make a phone call to his girlfriend. That high. We join Chev in High Voltage lying on the same chunk of asphalt where we left him (why his body didn’t disintegrate on impact is never really explored — seriously, I’m not one to nitpick, but the guy fell 30,000 feet or so and he isn’t even bleeding). As the film begins, Chev is shoveled off the pavement by organ-harvesting gangsters. They swap out his heart for an artificial, batterypowered ticker, which Chev has to recharge at intervals throughout the film while trying to track down his precious stolen organ. Methods for recharging include self-tasering, grappling with a transformer and static electricity (generated — how else? — by having sex with his girlfriend in public). The original Crank seems restrained by comparison. There’s plenty of action as Chev pummels his way back to health, and if it were content to be the low-rent action film its predecessor was, High Voltage might have been more fun. But creators Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor try to distinguish their lackluster sequel by adding more comedy (bad move) and making everything louder, cruder and dumber. This backfires in every way. The jokes sound like they were written after a dumpster-diving session at Seth McFarlane’s office, and the amped-up violence has a stench of desperation about it, as if Neveldine and Taylor were less concerned with making a good film and more concerned with being seen as mad geniuses. Sorry, fellas. No sale. The film’s only draw is Statham, still a likable screen presence despite his continued participation in D-grade flicks like this one. Amy Smart and Bai Ling are willful participants in the film’s notedgy-at-all misogyny, and Dwight Yoakam continues to slum as Chev’s doctor buddy who explains the arbitrary rules of the game to the audience. With the possible exception of Corey Haim, every member of this cast could do better. Because it attained a sort of cult status, a sequel to Crank was probably inevitable. Consequently, I think of High Voltage kind of like a deep-fried Snickers bar. It’s one of those ideas that is so aggressively stupid it almost has to exist. At least no one is trying to market it as a healthy meal, but that still doesn’t mean you should eat it.