About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    See This F&*%$ Movie, Mate

    By Kyle | September 9, 2009

    “It’s so hard to keep a straight face,” Jason Statham says in the gag reel at the end of “Crank 2: High Voltage.” Why bother? This larky hard charger, which is new on DVD this week, is one of the craziest, funniest, most go-to-hell movies of the year.

    Yes, I have ended my petulant months-long boycott of “Crank 2: High Voltage,” which Lionsgate didn’t screen for critics when it opened last spring. This touched off a spasm of indignation in me. But after a month in which I saw “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “All About Steve,” I have earned this movie.

    Cult writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor haven’t quite lived up to the brilliance of “Crank,” which was also hilarious but didn’t force its laughs quite as much as the campier sequel (which includes, for instance, a scene in which Statham’s Chev Chelios turns into a jerky, 60s-Godzilla-style model-monster version of himself as he rampages against a baddie).

    The first movie ended with poor Chev, who really had quite a bad day indeed (as a newscaster gravely informs us, it was “a day that can only be described as implausible”), landing face first on the pavement after falling a mile out of a helicopter. But, like Wile-E the Cockney, our Chev is not to be kept down for long. His motionless body literally gets scraped off the pavement with a shovel and spirited away to a greasy lab where his heart gets cut out of his body. For a replacement he gets a fake heart with a dodgy battery that he needs to keep charged by, say, hooking a car battery up to his nipple and grounding it with his tongue. Chev’s search for his original ticker will lead us to the immortal line, “I’m gonna ask you this once — who’s got my f—ing strawberry tart?” (Cockney rhyming slang, you see. Very useful in Los Angeles.) His ever-reachable doc on demand (Dwight Yoakam) advises Chev, “Don’t do anything strenuous.”

    Still, a strenuous day it must be if the strawberry tart is going to be kept beating. At the race track, he learns that rubbing his skin against someone else’s can create friction. Luckily, there is a little old lady on hand (she ID’s him to cops as that actor from the movies — “The ‘Trainspotted’ fellow”), and also his girl (Amy Smart), because it just wouldn’t be a Crank movie without an al fresco sex scene in front of thousands of onlookers.

    The point of the movies is to keep the adrenaline rush going at all times, but the meaning is a sort of mockbuster spoof of action flicks and their ridiculously contrived chases and shootouts. For the kind of person who (like me) laughed merrily throughout “Scarface,” “Crank 2: High Voltage” offers a villain called Poon Dong, a disembodied but living head, a guy with full-body Tourettes to match the cinematic Tourettes of the directors, much creative abuse to the nipples and rectal regions of various bad dudes (come on fellas, parts of this thing are gayer than “Bruno”) and a rousing poolside scene in which hookers, our hero, and gangbangas of both the Latino and Chinese varieties spill enough hot lead to fill the swimming pool. Another welcome addition: This time Chev has his own theme song: “Keep on Lovin’ You.”

    As I say: camp. But it’s ruthlessly imaginative, dementedly energetic camp, camp for people who don’t like camp, and I’m one. How can you not love it when Chev, needing a quick blast, tells two dog owners he’s from PETA and seizes their German shepherd’s electrified collar so he can put it on himself? “Give that back, you liberal freak!” the dog owners tell him. “Crank 2” is pure action-comedy grindhouse, a glorious bastard of a movie.

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