Take it straight up, no chaser: a strobing, surging shot of cine-adrenaline to be snorted straight through your eyeballs. Unafraid to burst blood-vessels in its own brain in the pursuit of higher, harder, faster thrills, the psychotically inventive Crank 2 showcases not only its makers’ canny tapping of videogame aesthetics, cartoon wit and reckless ultraviolence, but the wrecking-ball spectacle of Jason Statham himself. Try thinking of another actor on the planet who could pull off the indestructible Chev Chelios.
And you’ll never know just how technically ingenious Crank 2: High Voltage is until you load it up on Blu-ray. Brilliantly harnessing BD’s power, the ‘Cranked Out: High Voltage’ commentary lets the movie run in a PiP box while co-director’s Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor sit in the full-screen to fire out info and anecdote (and the occasional belch) pretty much non-stop. As the film unspools, Making Of footage is then spliced into the full-frame: we watch the scene been shot while that scene is playing in the PiP box and with the directors’ commentary over the top.
As well as tons of Making Of – Statham pulling his own stunts, Bai Ling spazzing out, FX guys building a fake elbow to be machete-hacked – we also cut to interviews with stunt co-ordinators, producers or actors any time they have something interesting to say about a sequence. 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 Tayor’s commentary on audio or in the PiP box. But why would you? One day, all Making Ofs will be like this.
Actually, we get a straight-up Making Of documentary too. Clocking in at a meaty 51-minutes and gratifyingly avoiding overlap with the Cranked Out commentary, it sees Neveldine and Taylor guzzling bottles of beer while explaining the genesis of an unlikely franchise they initially had no interest in, having dropped it several thousand feet out of a helicopter. “Then, A, we realised there’s no way anybody else could direct this,” says Taylor. “And, B, there’s no way we would let anyone direct this.” Neveldine chips in: “And C, we were broke.”
True, “Taylor and Nev” are significantly less funny than they think they are. But they’re genuinely enthralled with the filmmaking process – which is why they’re thrilled to reveal the secret star of Crank 2. A camera that costs $700. It’s called the Canon HF-10. And you could go out and buy it right now. “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 to capture Jason Statham’s kinetic action-man.
It’s amazing, inspirational, run’n’gun, gonzo DIY 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 remote-control car that travels under moving vehicles as it chases 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 metal that was light enough to carry. That’s right: hand-held bullet-time. Bullet-time you can rollerblade with. “On some shots, you can actually see your heartbeat shake the camera because it’s 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? Special-effects whiz James McQuaide had his doubts. “I’ve never shot a studio Hollywood 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. Crank 2: High Voltage 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 fresh and clear. Punching out with violent immediacy, the stylised colour palette almost matches the detail, while audio track seriously shakes up the surround-soundscape.
One last bonus supp slams home the irresistible balls-out attitude of the Crank crew. “We just ran with the cameras shooting things spontaneously,” explains 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’ whizzes through the entire film pointing out cameras, lights, crewmembers, paparazzi, stuntmen and cops all visible in the frame. At one point, you can even see an entirely different scene from the film visible being shot in the back of one sequence at the pool house. Only you can’t. Because Crank 2 is just moving too fast to care.
Publication: Total Film