Review: Crank: High Voltage

Yet another "D.O.A." for the ADD era, "Crank 2: High Voltage" rewards the sizable cult audience of 2006's "Crank" with more of the same, only stupider. Returning writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor continue their proudly immoral cartoon tale of adrenaline-fixed assassin Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) in a crudely ultra-violent manner that looks less like self-parody this time than pure paycheck-grabbing. Lionsgate sequel's sense of diminishing returns won't get in the way at the B.O., where benefits of the first film's ancillary gross-out will jolt "Voltage" like a speedball shot to the groin, until word of mouth spreads like an STD.

Notable for being perhaps the first pic to feature an anal rape by shotgun (among countless other atrocities), this premeditatedly rude sequel picks up precisely where "Crank" left off -- with Statham's hopped-up L.A. antihero falling from a helicopter onto Wilshire Boulevard, whereupon he's literally scooped up by thugs who send him to their own makeshift ER for a heart transplant. Lionsgate, having resuscitated its "Saw" sicko four times and counting, seems ready to do likewise with Chelios for as long as B.O. allows.

That the heavy has a plastic heart this time out suits the pic's relative lack of inspiration, though the helmers (musicvid vets credited onscreen as Neveldine/Taylor) curiously fail to make a reflexive joke of it. As his toolbox of a pacemaker provides insufficient juice, Chelios quickly learns to maintain an electric charge by various other means -- stealing a German shepherd's shock collar, for instance -- while frantically seeking the excised organ Triad goons gave to their boss, Poon Dong (David Carradine, wearing a horndog grin and a Fu Manchu beard).

In between casual killings, Chelios reunites with pissed-off g.f. Eve (Amy Smart), whom he discovers humping a strip-club pole. Borderline pornographic, a subsequent scene at Hollywood Park has Eve and Chelios doing the horizontal boogie on the racetrack while horses jump erotically overhead.

Dwight Yoakam returns as Chelios' well-medicated doctor, who at one point urges his client to rub against strangers for an enlivening transfer of electrons. Efren Ramirez is also back, this time playing his former character's brother, who (ha-ha) has Tourette syndrome. By far the ugliest of the new figures is a foul-mouthed "social club" whore, demeaningly essayed by Bai Ling.

As in "Crank," high-def video shooting lends a suitably garish immediacy to the frenzied action. What's new in "Voltage" is the mistaken notion that what the core audience loves isn't humor so much as rank vulgarity. Pic's sole laugh comes courtesy of an elliptical intertitle -- "9 Seconds Later" -- flashed nearly subliminally during a foot chase.

The directors here are content to replay the same Red Bull six-pack aesthetic -- rack zooms, split-screens, and whiplash pans aplenty -- with been-there-done-that disinterest. After the hero is whipped almost to death in a scene that plays like "The Passion of the Chelios," the pic ends, aptly, with Statham pointing not a pistol at the viewer, a la "The Great Train Robbery," but his middle finger.

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