A few minutes into watching Crank, my lovely wife, sitting behind me at the kitchen table doing some sewing, said, "Where did you get this freakin' mind garbage?" I was kind of digging it, in a car-wreck sorta way, and said, "Uh, the library, like most movies." Still, that was my clue to shut it off and plan an alterative viewing time.
So I found myself with some precious free time and fired it back up. I'm ashamed to admit I enjoyed it.
Ashamed because this is the exact kind of amoral (hell, immoral) action flick marketed at teenage boys anymore. There have been many movies where a bad guy is the "hero," but usually the movie does not expect us to identify with him even if we empathize a bit. This movie squarely paints the lead, played by unlikely action hero Jason Statham, as the sympathetic character, even though he's a hit man and a hardened criminal.
The movie opens with him waking up feeling terrible. In his living room he discovers a DVD he's clearly supposed to watch, and when he does, he's told - in a gansta Mission: Impossible style - that he has been injected with a Beijing cocktail which will kill him within the hour. We later learn (via the hero's doctor, played by my boy Dwight Yoakam) that the exact mechanism it uses is it blocks adrenaline, and the only way he can stay alive is to overdose on adrenaline.
So, he goes through a series of extreme things, including screwing his dimwitted girlfriend in the middle of a busy public square. (Again, teenage boys would just love this scene; I was just lightly amused, but somewhat embarrassed for the actors.)
The humor in the movie is very Tarantino-esque in that it's all keyed off of violence or tawdry circumstance. For instance, the scene mentioned above where they boff in public ends when he gets a phone call that distracts him and you hear the wet pop as he pulls out.
I watched it on a computer, and the DVD player that came with it isn't a very good player, and the subtitles were stuck on for most of the movie. (I figured out how to shut them off 2/3 of the way through.) This was a fortunate accident, because they went through the trouble of making the only subtitle joke I think I've ever seen. Two characters are in a conversation, and they're cutting back and forth furiously as they bark out their lines. One interrupts the other, and when we switch around to view the interrupter, the subtitles of the character who was just interrupted are in the foreground and blurry, as though they really existed as letters hanging in the air. It's quick and subtle, but I laughed out loud.
Ironically, this movie comes with a "family friendly" soundtrack, where all the bad language is looped into clean words. But, all the scenes of extreme violence and sex are still very much intact. What good does it do to change a line to "Frick! You stupid freaking frick!" when they're spraying bullets or having graphic sex? It's kind of like shellacking a turd and claiming it's now hygienic.
Like I said, I enjoyed it, but I wasn't proud of myself. You might like it too if movies of dubious moral viewpoints and gratuitous everything don't bug ya too much.