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The most dubiously premised attempt at a movie franchise since “Speed 2” hit screens Friday in the form of “Crank: High Voltage,” with British action star Jason Statham repeating his role as Chev Chelios, the guy who just can’t get a break. After spending the entirety of the first film desperately trying to keep his adrenaline pumping to counteract the effects of a deadly poison, Chev now has to keep himself electrically charged before the battery of his artificial heart runs out of juice.
If you’re wondering what happened to Chev’s original ticker — or “strawberry tart” as he rather inexplicably calls it — it’s been forcibly removed and implanted in the chest of an aged Chinese gangster (David Carradine, apparently graduating from “Kung Fu” to “Fu Manchu”).
Writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s second installment follows the same formula as the first, with one difference: They’ve managed to ramp up the action and vulgarity beyond the insane heights of the original.
Thus, Chev, guided by his sleazy former heart surgeon friend Doc Powell (Dwight Yoakam, minus the cowboy hat), desperately searches for his heart (metaphor alert!) while periodically shocking himself with a variety of devices (stun guns, car batteries, electronic dog collars) to keep himself from collapsing.
When regular electricity isn’t handy, he resorts to static electricity caused by friction: First by rubbing himself up against the sort of profane, sex-crazy old lady that exists only in bad movies, then by once again having wild public sex — this time in the middle of a track during a horse race — with his ever-willing girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart).
From Chev’s sticking a shotgun barrel up a bad guy’s ass to his final turning toward the camera to give the audience the finger, the film makes clear that subtlety is not part of the equation.
What makes it all palatable is the comic lunacy injected into the proceedings, which often take on a decidedly surreal quality. Besides the constant Three Stooges-style physical humor — one of the characters has “full-body Tourette’s,” resulting in the inevitable slapstick — there are such bizarre interludes as a flashback in which we see Stathan’s character as a child being interviewed on a TV talk show and a fight sequence that suddenly turns into an homage to Japanese monster movies. And the graphic sex sequence features the sort of pixilated body parts seen on late-night commercials for “Girls Gone Wild.”
As usual, Statham anchors the proceedings with his simmering charisma and impressive physicality. Indeed, he injects himself into the mayhem so furiously that one begins to be concerned for his well-being should there be a “Crank 3.” Which, no doubt, there will be.
Opened: Friday, April 17 (Lionsgate)
Production: Lakeshore Entertainment/Lionsgate
Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Clifton Collins Jr., Efren Ramirez, Bai Ling, David Carradine, Reno Wilson, Joseph Julian Soria, Dwight Yoakam
Directors-screenwriters: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Skip Williamson, Richard Wright
Executive producers: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, Eric Reid, David Scott Rubin, James McQuaide, Michael Paseornek, Peter Block, Michael Davis
Director of photography: Brandon Trost
Editor: Fernando Villena
Production designer: Jerry Fleming
Costume designer: Dayna Pink
Music: Mike Patton
Rated R, 95 minutes
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