Chev Chelios is a hit man on the verge of reaping what he’s sown. Following a successful hit on the crime lord Don Kim, Chev awakens to find that the kingpin’s henchmen have poisoned him. A video message from a lackey named Ricky Verona informs Chev he’ll be dead within the hour.
The enraged assassin quickly discovers, however, that adrenaline staves off the death-dealing drug’s effects—which are the slowing of his heart and blurring of his vision. So, what else is there to do than launch a reckless, retaliatory, adrenaline-pumping rampage across Los Angeles in search of Verona? Along the way he picks up his girlfriend, Eve, whom he uses to amp up the excitement (in more ways than one) even higher.
Late in the film, Chev confesses to Eve that he is ready to relinquish his career as a hit man for the sake of a future with her. Quitting means exercising his conscience—arguably the lone such occurrence in the movie—and sparing someone he was paid $100,000 to kill. Chev also confronts thugs sent to kill his girlfriend (it doesn’t go well for them), rescuing her in the process (but then exposing her to a lot more danger—and bullets).
Chev asks an Asian man he’s about to shoot if he’s ready to meet Buddha.
Three scenes include breast nudity. The first shows Chev’s doctor with three topless women in a massage parlor. Another depicts a topless woman at what seemed to be a sex/fetish bar (other patrons wear revealing and risqué outfits as well). Finally, Chev paws at Eve’s dress, pulling it down.
That last bit is a prelude to a lengthy, graphic sex scene in which Chev demands that Eve have sex with him—even though they’re in the middle of a Chinatown marketplace. She resists at first, then obliges. In the end, she’s the one egging him on and making fun of the fact that he can’t seem to make everything “work” at first. The pair then has rough sex in different positions, to the perverse delight of hundreds of shocked-but-entranced onlookers, including a busload of young people. Later, one of them breathlessly tells a newsperson about what she’d witnessed.
It’s implied that Eve performs oral sex on Chev while he’s driving in a car chase. And she comments graphically about the effect of the drugs on his sexual anatomy. Another scene depicts another woman standing up after kneeling between a man’s legs, suggesting oral sex.
A barely clothed stripper pole-dances. Lingering camera shots focus on women in bikinis. Several women wearing little are “ornaments” in translucent plastic spheres at the headquarters of a crime boss named Carlito. We see Eve in her underwear and glimpse her bare back as she changes clothes. We see Chev’s bare backside.
Eve gets upset that she forgot to take her birth control pill. Drugs render Chev visibly aroused. He makes a sick comment about sexual activity between two brothers (one of whom he’s just killed).
Four or five scenes in particular are exceedingly graphic in this endlessly violent exhibition. Chev uses a massive meat cleaver to remove an assailant’s hand; he then picks up the hand—which still clutches the gun—and shoots the man in the back of the head. (The severed hand makes another appearance when it’s then delivered to the man’s brother.) Later on, another thug gets shot in the head, resulting in a fountain of blood erupting from the wound. A bullet blows off several of Verona fingers. We watch as he scrambles on the ground to find them. Chev deliberately sticks his hand in hot waffle iron, closing the lid on it to generate enough pain to release adrenaline. Hands in general don’t fare well in Crank: Chev deals with one assailant by shoving his hand under the moving needle of an industrial sewing machine, with predictably bloody results.
In addition to those intense images, the film is also full of more “mundane” violence. Perhaps a dozen or so people are shot, several at close range. One of them falls from a second-story fire landing. Another is drenched in blood after being capped at point-blank range. Chev kills several enemies with his bare hands (breaking necks, ramming heads into steel plates, throwing people off rooftops, etc.). One of Chev’s friends is brutally murdered by men who place a plastic bag over his head, then hang him. A bad guy tosses one of his buddies on a live grenade to save himself. Two men topple from a helicopter; we watch as one of them hits a car and bounces. An errant bullet obliterates a woman’s pet parrot.
Apparently Chev believes his impending doom gives him license to do whatever he wants without considering the safety or wellbeing of others. Among other things, he drives through an indoor mall in an attempt to evade police; holds a doctor at gunpoint and demands drugs and a defibrillator treatment; fires two warning shots at police pursuing him in a hospital; threatens a man by holding a gun to his face; deliberately instigates a fight with a gang; rudely and roughly bumps into waitresses and hospital personnel; and yanks a convenience store clerk out from behind the counter to threaten him.
Finally, Chev rides a motorcycle with no hands—then stands on the seat until the bike crashes into a restaurant, where he is thrown and knocked unconscious. At least one other person is shown unconscious on the ground after the “accident.”
For these cranky characters, profanity is about as frequent as breathing. Virtually every sentence uttered by Chev, Verona and pretty much everyone else includes swearing—much of it of the harshest variety. They spew 100-plus f-words (including more than 20 uses of “m—–f—–“), almost 50 s-words and handfuls of extremely offensive slang terms for male and female genitalia. God’s and Jesus’ names are reviled and abused about 20 times. And a host of other milder profanities and vulgarities also litter the script; characters use the n-word and call each other “faggots.”
Drugs play a central role in Crank, as Chev uses quite a variety to keep his heart beating. His first stimulant? A bag of cocaine which he spills, then snorts off of a filthy floor. When coke doesn’t get the job done, he turns to energy drinks, energy pills, nasal spray and a mouthful of unidentified prescription pills. Eventually, Chev steals ephedrine from a hospital, then shoots a full syringe of it into his arm. We twice witness him being injected in the neck with a huge hypodermic needle. A cabbie thinks Chev is a crackhead, and he offers him an herbal “remedy” to calm him down. Chev drinks it and begins hallucinating. Eve thinks smoking pot is the best way to bring Chev back down to earth.
Chev steals any number of things during the movie, including a taxi cab (after hurling its driver to the street), a policeman’s motorcycle, drugs from the hospital, and energy pills and drinks from a convenience store.
Eve is fascinated with her boyfriend’s work, once she discovers what it is (Chev has never told her the truth about his “job”). After he kills several people, she brags to another character, “My boyfriend kills people.” Chev’s doctor offers to ease his passing by euthanizing him.
It’s difficult to get your head around the idea that two people physically manhandling each other and having sex in public with hundreds of bystanders watching—for several minutes—now constitutes an “acceptable” plot twist in a mainstream motion picture showing at your local mall. Not to mention seeing every gruesome detail as our “hero” cuts off someone’s hand and then shoots him in the head with the gun that’s still clutched in it.
So before I let loose too many descriptors such as depraved, degenerate, obscene and immoral, let’s make this short and simple: Crank is a pointlessly foul—not to mention bloody, profane and pornographic—cocktail. There’s little else that needs to be said regarding this latest look-how-far-we’re-going-to-push-it-just-because-we-can actioner.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.