A strobing, surging shot of cineadrenaline, Crank 2: High Voltage is unafraid to burst blood vessels in its own brain in pursuit of higher, harder and faster thrills.
Eventually – inevitably – it runs itself ragged (a patchier second half climaxes in a virtual rewind of the 2006 original). But mostly it’s a pounding showcase for its makers’ canny tapping of videogame aesthetics, cartoon wit and reckless ultraviolence.
Meanwhile, Jason Statham makes a ferocious case for himself as the only actor on the planet fit enough and game enough to pull off the indestructible Chev Chelios, tearing up Los Angeles in search of the heart he’s had replaced by an artificial ticker that needs regular re-charging.
Thing is, you’ll never know just how psychotically inventive Crank 2 is until you load it up on Blu-ray. Brilliantly harnessing BD’s power, the ‘Crank’d Out’ commentary lets the movie run in a picture-in-picture box while co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor sit in the full-screen to fire out info, anecdotage and the occasional belch pretty much non-stop.
What’s really compulsive is that we don’t have to stare at their mugs for the entire runtime. Throughout, Making Of footage is spliced into the full-frame: we watch a scene being shot while that scene is playing in the PiP box and with the directors’ commentary over the top. Fantastic.
As well as tons of Making Of footage – Statham pulling his own stunts, Bai Ling spazzing out, the FX guys building a fake elbow to be machete-hacked – we also cut to interviews with cast and crew any time they have something interesting to say.
Taking ‘scene-specific’ to a whole new level, it’s intelligently constructed and a terrific experience that opens up the film completely. You also have the option of watching the movie full-screen with Neveldine and Taylor’s commentary on audio or in the PiP box. But why would you? One day, all Making Ofs will be like this.
We also get a straight-up behind-the-scener. Clocking in at 51 mins but avoiding chat-track overlap, it sees Neveldine and Taylor explaining the expansion of an unlikely franchise they initially had no interest in, having dropped it several thousand feet out of a helicopter at the end of part one.
“Then, A), we realised there’s no way anybody else could direct this and, B), there’s no way we would let anyone direct this,” says Taylor. Neveldine chips in: “And, C), we were broke.”
“Taylor and Nev” think they’re funnier than they are. A lot funnier. But they’re also genuinely enthralled with the filmmaking process. Which is why they’re thrilled to reveal the secret star of Crank 2: a $700 camera called the Canon HF10. “I was holding something about as heavy as a beer,” says Neveldine, who we see flying around on rollerblades, hanging off the back of moving cars and throwing himself off ledges.
It’s inspirational gonzo filmmaking. They shot 300 hours of footage in 30 days. Put eight cameras on a limo crash – because they could afford to.
Taped a camera to a remote-control car that travelled under moving vehicles as it chased Statham on a scooter down a highway. And best of all, built their own “ghetto bullet-time” rig by sticking nine cameras on a bent piece of steel light enough to carry around.
That’s right. Hand-held bullet-time. “On some shots, you can actually see your heartbeat shake the camera because they’re so light,” says DoP Brandon Trost. “I’ve never seen anything like this on the big screen.”
But what does Crank 2 look like on an HD TV? FX whiz James McQuaide had his doubts. “I’ve never shot a studio movie in HDV,” he explains. “When you stop on any single frame, you can see all sorts of horrible things. But as a moving image, it’s pretty spectacular.”
Take his word for it. Take our word for it. This is one of the most startling Blu-rays we’ve seen yet: every greasy skin-pore, muzzle burn, drop of
sweat, scowl-line and drip of blood is stunningly clear.
Punching out with violent hi-def immediacy, the stylised colour palette almost matches the detail for intensity, while the audio track rudely shakes up the surround-soundscape.
Elsewhere on the disc, there’s a gag-reel where everyone tries to act like crazy stuff is going on but nothing funny actually happens and an Easter Egg that reveals the team’s final-wrap workout.
One last bonus slams home the filmmakers’ irresistible balls-out attitude. “We just ran with the cameras shooting things spontaneously,” says Taylor.
“So there were a lot of – in movie lingo – ‘fuck-ups’ in the movie. Normally they cut these out of movies. But we celebrate and embrace them.”
Four-minute featurette ‘Crank: Take 2’ whips through an entire film’s worth of ‘fuck-ups’, joyously flagging up cameras, lights, crew members, paparazzi, stuntmen and cops all visible in the frame. In one bit, we even see an entirely different scene being filmed in the back of the shot.
But so what? Crank 2 moves so fast, it just doesn’t give a damn.