Dir/scr: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor. US. 2006.83mins.

Cartoonishlyviolent and determinedly un-PC, amped up action romp Crank, starring British tough guy Jason Statham, isn’t trying to please anyone but itscore audience of video game-playing, energy drink-swigging young males. And itshould work well enough for that thrill-seeking crowd, giving co-producersLakeshore and Lionsgate a solid theatrical successand a potential video breakout. Industry talent watchers, meanwhile, will takenote of the snappy style and visual inventiveness exhibited by first-timewriter/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.

Genre marketing expert Lionsgate released the film in North America (withoutadvance press screenings) for the Labor Day holiday weekend, the slot in whichStatham’s similarly targeted Transporter2 opened to an impressive $20.1m last year. Early estimates suggested that Crank - carrying a restrictive R ratingand with less appeal for mainstream audiences than the slick Transporter movies - would emerge fromthe weekend with a gross of between $10m and $12m.

Opening day-and-date withdomestic in the UK, Turkey and Russia, the film could producedecent theatrical returns in the international marketplace for independentdistributors (Lionsgate is licensing internationalrights) with the right kind of marketing skills. The street-smart strategiesused to sell the likes of Snatch and Lock, Stock And TwoSmoking Barrels(the Guy Ritchie films that got Statham’s career started)seem likely to produce the best results.

Statham’s Chev Chelios is freelance hitman who wants - as movie hitmeninvariably do - to quit the business so he can settle down with girlfriend Eve(Smart, from The Butterfly Effect).He wakes up on the first day of his retirement, however, to find that a localgangster has injected him with a ‘Beijingcocktail,’ a drug that will kill him in an hour.

The only way to slow thedrug’s effect is to keep adrenaline flowing through the body. So, determined tokeep Eve out of danger, find an antidote and get revenge, Chevsets out across Los Angelesusing any means available - from snorting coke to daredevil motorbike riding -to keep his adrenaline pumping.

Crankworks best when it’s a shamelessly adolescent thrill ride, jumping from onehigh-energy stunt to another - with pauses to ogle the plentiful supply ofbare-breasted babes - against a backdrop of rock and hip hop songs. Neveldine and Taylor, best known up to now for theircommercials and music videos, keep the pace frenetic and the tone light, usingmusic, titles and other devices to crack jokes as the action speeds along.

Much less effectivelywritten and directed are the later detours into romance and crime thrillerintrigue. The episodes seem to have been included to give the story a morefamiliar structure, but they really only serve to bring the skimpy running timecloser to the 90-minute mark.

The film doesn’t offer thedestructive mayhem that a bigger budget project might have, relying instead on snazzily shot car, bike and foot chases and physical stunts(most, apparently, done by Statham himself). It’s the quantity of action ratherthan the quality that raises Crank abit above the level of most medium-budget action thrillers.

The violence is strong butmostly stylised and the drug use is casual (or, fromthe hero’s point of view, pragmatic). Both elements, though, might causeratings problems in some international territories. The one sex scene - to givehimself an extra jolt Chevforces Eve to have sex in the middle of a busy Chinatownplaza - is played for shock rather than erotic value.

Shooting on high definitionvideo that looks like film, Neveldine and Taylor useevery visual trick in the book (and a few that probably aren’t listed),including split screens, CSI-stylebody shots, colour effects and oddly angledclose-ups. The style is reminiscent of Tony Scott’s most in-your-face movies,though with a less polished feel.

Statham is well cast as Chev, pulling off a tone that an American star might havestruggled with. Smart’s ditsy blonde act is the onlysignificant female role in a film that won’t have any feminist fans.

Country-singer-turned-actorDwight Yoakam (Sling Blade) is enjoyable as a sleazydoctor trying to help Chev survive.

In a parade of productplacements, some brand names - of energy drinks and training shoes, among otherthings - get more screen prominence than the actors.

Production companies/backers
Lakeshore Entertainment
Lionsgate Films

US distribution
Lionsgate Films

International distribution
Lionsgate International

Executive producers
Skip Williamson
David Scott Rubin

Tom Rosenberg
Gary Lucchesi
Richard Wright
Michael Davis

Mark Neveldine
Brian Taylor

Adam Biddle

Production design
Jerry Fleming

Brian Berdan

Paul Haslinger

Main cast
Jason Statham
Amy Smart
Jose Pablo Cantillo
Efren Ramirez
Dwight Yoakam