By Matthew Hammond

Attitude. Expressing a distinctive and defiant attitude is a difficult accomplishment to achieve in modern cinema. From big budget blockbusters to intimate dramas, projecting a unique voice over the clicking gears of the Hollywood machine is a rare and thrilling achievement. Arguably, no film in the last decade has had such a bold, exciting and aggressive attitude than Neveldine and Taylor’s exercise in sheer energy and pure madness, Crank 2 High Voltage. It is an example of unashamed, controversy baiting, fuel-injected, hyperkinetic filmmaking that is impossible not to love.

The film picks up directly at the climax of the first Crank, with Jason Statham’s iconic and seemingly unstoppable hero Chev Chelios falling to his death. Well…as it proves, not death exactly…because moments after hitting the tarmac, Chev blinks his eyes in an unsettling close up which kicks the events of Crank 2 into action. Chev’s body is instantly claimed by a group of Triads, who plan to harvest his unique organs, starting with his heart, which is replaced by an electrical powered artificial heart. He escapes before the rest of his body can be eviscerated, leading him on a quest to find his heart and get revenge. However, this loose narrative plays, just like the first film, as an excuse to establish a life or death, race against time situation; simply, in order to stay alive, Chev must keep his artificial heart charged otherwise it will stop pumping. Like their unfortunate hero, Neveldine and Taylor keep Crank 2 pumping relentlessly with action and spectacle, placing Chev in increasingly bizarre and impossible situations. The film’s tone is pure exploitation cinema; it has no respect for an institution, sexual equality, law or order. It playfully walks the line between the tongue in cheek, the grotesque and absolute bad taste. It is an ode to chaos, which is refreshing to experience, and is able to provoke both uncontrollable laughter and gasps at the outlandishness on display.

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Perhaps the most interesting element of this particularly wild film is Neveldine and Taylor’s experimentation with camera choice and filmmaking technique. Rather than use high end, expensive movie cameras, the directors used cheap HD cameras that are widely available. However, instead of seeing an visual limitations in this choice of camera, the directors were inspired by the freedom of movement they enabled; the small size and lightweight nature make them the perfect tool for a director team whose films are full of kinetic pace, unconventional framing and a proclivity for close ups and multiple angle editing compositions.  Also, the cheapness of these mass-produced cameras meant they could purchase large amounts and easily replace them if they were damaged. This allowed them to place cameras in positions that were either too dangerous or impossible due to size and visibility, for studio cameras. The resulting success of this technique can be seen during a sequence in which Chev engages in a shootout within a limo, which causes the vehicle to crash. Due to the camera’s size and mobility, Neveldine and Taylor are able to find angles within the claustrophobic limo space that makes the action more dynamic, varied and impactful, reminiscent of the fluid carnage of John Woo’s 1992 classic Hard Boiled. When the vehicle crashes, the directors were able to place cameras all around the street, even including the direct path of the crashing limo. As a result, the edited sequence is full of energy, quick cutting between multiple angles and, most impressive of all, reinforcing the sense of power and danger of this hurtling vehicle, coming relentlessly at the camera.

Neveldine and Taylor take as much inspiration from the pace, style and immersive sensation of video games, as it does action cinema; the film opens by replaying the last moments of Crank in an 8-bit graphic montage, an homage to the classic games of the 1980’s. Indeed, the film feels like a fusion of side scrolling arcade beat ‘em ups (with its relentless action, comedic tone and waves of colourful enemies) and a Grand Theft Auto inspired sense of freedom to break the rules within a vast and interesting city space, alive with detail and criminal structure. This combination of cinematic spectacle and video game inspired dynamism create a fresh, modern visual style, powered by multiple media convergence and expression.

Crank 2 exponentially ramps up all the best qualities of the first film, adding extra layers of exploitation humour, low budget invention and sheer kinetic energy, creating a truly modern action film, with a beating heart fueled by 1980’s action cinema, Grand Theft Auto and Hustler magazine. If Crank 2 is anything, it is an example that attitude, invention and culture make a Molotov cocktail of a film.

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