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Cranking up a ‘High Voltage’ retrospective movie review

Cranking up a ‘High Voltage’ retrospective movie review

The films “Crank” and “Crank: High Voltage” are like mainlining insanity while flying blind on a rocket cycle.

“Crank” (Neveldine/Taylor, 2006) and “Crank: High Voltage” (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009) were modestly received upon release, then quickly forgotten. However, look back on them now, and you will find that not only are they two of the best action films of the last 10 years, but they are also two of the most important.

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat. Despite the fact that they were released three years apart, these two films are really two halves of one film. Although the films were made with enough forethought that one needn’t necessarily see both films to fully enjoy just one of them. But to really get the complete experience, a double feature is definitely in order.

In terms of why these films are great, let’s start with the star: Jason Statham. Statham is clearly one of the biggest action stars of the current era. Many of his films are regarded as modern classics of the genre. His performances in films like “Snatch,” “The Transporter” and “The Italian Job” solidified him as a cinematic badass.

In the Crank films, Statham gets to take things to another level as Chev Chelios; a man on a mission to save his own life, with a side quest of revenge. The breakneck pacing of the films gave Statham an opportunity to bring the intensity like never before. Consequently, he turns in a career performance, as he carries the entire three plus hours of this adrenaline-fueled bullet train.

There are also plenty of fantastic performances from the ensembles supporting cast. Amy Smart, Dwight Yokham, Efren Ramirez, Bai Ling, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Clifton Collins Jr. and Corey Haim (in his final role) all turn in great performances that really keep the films buoyant and fun.

Cantillo is particularly screen-chewing as Ricky Verona. He is almost as much a force of nature as Statham is himself.

Beyond the performances, the way the films were shot was absolutely revolutionary. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (usually credited as Neveldine/Taylor) have an almost guerilla-style approach to the way they shoot their films.

Lots of hand-held camera work, lots of movement, both the cameras, as well as within the frame, and lots of rapid-fire editing. However, these techniques are employed by other filmmakers as well.

What Neveldine and Taylor do in these films that separates them from the rest of the pack is add a sort of cultural zeitgeisty-ness (a perfectly cromulent word) to flavor it.

The Internet and its related technologies have become a completely interwoven component of the lives of the first generations of children and adults to be diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.

We are a society of people who want things fast and immediate. Email is putting nails in the coffins of “snail mail.” Streaming and downloading have replaced disc rental. Ritalin and Adderall have replaced cocaine and speed.

These are all markers along the road of society’s continual evolution. Somehow, Neveldine and Taylor managed to capture the essence of this metamorphosis into the way they shot these films.

And that is what aids these two films in transcending their genre, and becoming artistic statements worthy of further consideration, after you have been sated by the blood, gunshots, car chases, and killings, which are the primary lures of the beloved action film.

Somehow, Neveldine/Taylor have been able to craft a dramatic representation of this cultural transmogrification: a snapshot of a society in transition, whose mile-a-minute insanity is as exciting and fun as it is prescient and astute.

That is why, if you haven’t seen “Crank” and “Crank: High Voltage,” you need to. And if you have already, then you need to again. They are a valuable set of the most over-the-top and balls-to-the-wall fun films.

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Cranking up a ‘High Voltage’ retrospective movie review