At this stage few are expecting 'Snatch' and 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' star Jason Statham to play the lead in a romantic period drama. He's an action movie star plain and simple, and his watchable but silly movies provide a link back to the genre's glory years in the 1980s. What 'Crank' shows, however, is that Statham might have more of a talent for comedy than people give him credit for.
Here he plays Chev Chelios, a contract killer who has been injected with a deadly synthetic drug by a gang boss (Cantillo). He has about 90 minutes to live, which probably isn't enough time to even the score and get his shady buddy Doctor Miles (Yoakam) to find an antidote. But Miles does know of a way that Chev can improve his chances of survival: he needs to keep adrenalin pumping furiously through his system to prevent it from shutting down completely. Cue shootouts, car chases, fist fights and all manner of bizarre detours as Chev tries to keep himself at boiling point.
Former stunt co-ordinator Mark Neveldine and his co-writer and co-director Brian Taylor have made a film which is very noisy, severe on the eyes, ludicrous but, one nasty scene aside, is a decent example of mindless entertainment. 'Crank' combines mayhem with gags (eg Chev chops killer's hand off then tries to shoot him with his own gun - only to find the bad guy's hand is still around the grip) and its visual style, race-against-time and delight in the over-the-top make it one of the better recent examples of how to do an action movie. Forget about characterisation, you're buying a rollercoaster ticket.
Occasionally 'Crank' gets too crazy and brutal for its own good and it's in no way as memorable as anything John Woo did in his Hong Kong heyday, but Neveldine and Taylor make a good team and maybe with Statham on board they can up the ante for the adrenalin junkies in the audience even more in the future.