Crank: High Voltage (2009)

April 21, 2009

They say that ignorance is bliss.  I had no idea what Crank: High Voltage was going to be like or else I would never have gone to see it.  To those who say that ignorance is bliss I would say “you couldn’t be more wrong”.  I have made notes on (more or less) 150 movies since I began keeping a record.  Of those I gave 0/10 to a handful- four or five maybe and, indeed, tonight I re-evaluated a couple and revised their score upwards.  It is as if with Crank: High Voltage I discovered an tenth circle in Dante’s Inferno.  Some of the films I saw were just rubbish because they didn’t need to be any good to achieve their commercial aims (Lesbian Vampire Killers, My Bloody Valentine 3D), some were the product of people who had given up caring about film-making (Ashanti), some were puerile, lowest common-denominator rubbish (Borat) and some were mindlessly, ignorantly offensive (Slumdog Millionaire). This is like a compilation of the worst bits of the most craptacular films I have ever seen.  It is artless, witless, joyless, offensive, amateurish, nonsensical, banal, exploitative, nasty, backwards, overbearing, derivative, vulgar and, frankly, shit. Apparently this is a sequel- there were suggestions of a back-story throughout- and I’m perversely curious to know if it can possibly be anything like as appalling (in the truest sense of the word) as this.

This film is not only gob-smackingly bad (there are moments of literally jaw-dropping ineptitude from everyone present) and grotesquely, deliberately offensive (being offensive to everyone doesn’t even it out somehow, it simply multiplies it) it also has the temerity to masquerade as being inventive or cutting-edge by throwing in the kind of visual gimmicks (weird fonts for subtitles etc) that would see an Art School student repeating the year.  It even has a segment ripping off the likes of Aronofsky and Tarantino with Jason Statham’s character as a boy on a Jeremy Kyle-style chat show with Spice Girl (fairly suddenly) turned old woman Geri Halliwell.

The problem with Crank: High Voltage, apart from it’s utter shitness, is that it gives ammunition to the Mary Whitehouse brigade.  How can you argue that censorship is too restrictive and that art must be unrestricted to thrive and challenge and develop when you get the likes of Neveldine and Taylor (the Directors) using the freedoms that have been fought for to let Jason Statham grease the barrel of a shotgun and insert it into a fat bloke’s anus?  Argue that it’s funny and that I’m taking it to seriously if you wish, I’d buy it if that was an isolated incident, but it is simply the prelude to a conveyer belt of similar lowbrow, low-invention cack.

I have no problem with violence or gore or gratuitous sex and nudity or dumb explosions.  I can even live with sexism, racism, homophobia and other offensiveness if (seriously, that is a big if) it is necessary and in context and challenged or used to provoke debate or thoughts in the audience.  Where this lump of bollocks differs is that the violence and gore and gratuitous sex and sexism and racism and homophobia (which is the whole film, by the way) are glorified.  This is a film for fourteen year olds to wank to and aspire to.  This isn’t Nine Songs or Dirty Harry or Super Vixens or Saw, it is a pale imitation of the schlocky bits of them and films like them with all of the intelligence replaced by dumb visuals.

I am disgusted that David Carradine was involved (albeit only momentarily) in this.

I haven’t been able to express in any depth or with any clarity the myriad reasons that this horrible film is an abomination.  Genuinely I think it is a new cultural low-point.  I was taken aback so far by it’s uselessness that I was rendered speechless. -1/10.  Yes, minus one.


Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

December 25, 2008

If you’re a British man in your twenties or thirties, the chances are you’ve probably seen this a fair few times.  The fact that I ended up watching it (again) today wasn’t by choice, therefore, but to humour someone who hadn’t seen it.  If that makes watching it sound like a chore, it is and it isn’t.  The film is ten years old now and very resonant of its time.

Four young British clothes horses (they’re models, not actors right?) end up owing a cartoonish local villain half a million pounds with only a week to pay up.  There then transpires an unlikely sequence of events in which three gangs all handle- at one time or another- a bag-load of cash, a van-load of drugs and two antique muskets.  There a few minor twists and turns and all of the loose ends are tied up in under two hours.  It is the type of movie designed to flatter the audience that they are following a labyrinthine plot when- in reality- not a lot happens.

What makes Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels so exemplary of late nineties film-making is its over-stylization.  The entire thing is drenched in sepia, it has an achingly cool soundtrack, there is cartoon violence done in CGI slo-mo, the whole thing is so obviously packaged and a product by design.  It is as if Guy Ritchie was handed copies of Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction, The Italian Job and The Matrix and instructed to produce a film that combines their best bits.  It is all so fucking deliberate and meticulously planned to tick the boxes that defined that zeitgeist.

The only thing that Guy Ritchie brings to Lock, Stock… which you won’t have seen done better before is his infatuation with butch men.  This isn’t a homo-erotic thing, it is clear (with the hindsight of his subsequent offerings) that Ritchie likes and identifies with ‘tough guys’.  His films increasingly focus upon tough working class men doing tough working class things and, given his privileged upbringing, this can’t help but look a little like a posh man exercising his infatuation in public.  Which is a bit odd.  The problem is that the slang dialogue and casual homophobia sound a little too contrived to be convincing.

Having said all of this, I’m not kicking the movie.  It is entertaining and succeeds in its (limited) aims.  I’ll give it a creditable 5/10.