Thursday, July 24, 2008


The Common Man is proud to introduce a new feature today, which was inspired by DirecTV's generous offer to provide The Common Man and the Uncommon Wife with Showtime and Starz free of charge for three months and by The Common Man's refusal to go to bed at a decent hour, dammit. <
For years, men have had to suffer through films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Lake House, dragged to the local theatre or the drama aisle by well-meaning girlfriends and wives who just have to watch The Notebook or The Prince of Tides or Sweet Home Alabama. Then, sadly, men are forced to suffer through two hours of Ryan Gosling or Matthew McConaughey or some other McDreamy churn through some plot that any intelligent person already knows the ending to.

Frankly, The Common Man feels slightly ignored by the movie industry these days. Sure, men are typically attracted to the action movies with their big explosions, sexy dames, and choreographed fights. But, let's face it, the vast majority of these movies star Matt Damon, Orlando Bloom, or some other eye-candy to bring in the lady-type viewers. Even the new Batman movie (which The Common Man is going to see tomorrow, so don't give anything away please) is appealing to both genders. Christian Bale? Aaron Eckhardt? The Uncommon Wife can't wait to get to the theater.

No, guys need more movies just for them. Movies they don't have to share. Movies their wives and girlfriends will be embarrassed to admit seeing. And so, it is with great pleasure that The Common Man announces a new genre, the D*#k Flick. Movies for guys. Every so often, The Common Man will pop up to review a D*#k Flick, letting you know exactly what was so wonderful or terrible about it from the man's perspective. And now, to the impetus of today's column, the 2006 release, Crank.

Crank is either the single most self-aware action movie of all time or an hour-and-a-half tutorial on taking uppers. Jason Statham stars as Chev Chelios, an assassin for hire who's about to hang up his silencer for good in order to be with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart). As you might expect, Chelios's bosses are less than amused at his decision and poison him with a chemical that is slowing his body down. To stay alive, Chelios must keep his adrenaline levels extremely high. To this end, he steals cars, drives through shopping malls, shoots at cops and criminals alike, has (very) public sex, takes cocaine, drinks an obscene amount of caffeine, terrorizes a hospital in an attempt to get a shot of epinephrine, and swears a lot (dropping an m-effer is known to tick your adrenaline levels up by 1-2%, apparently). Also, he remembers to stop and buy flowers for his girl. See, he's a sweet hitman on a rampage who kills anyone in his path.

Anyway, the film is essentially a live-action "Grand Theft Auto," to the point where the first scene is shot in first-person and the opening credits look like '80s video game graphics. Chelios careens through Los Angeles on a mission to kill the gangsters who have killed him with almost no resistance from law enforcement and no consequences. The film is an adrenaline-filled power-trip of male fantasies. That said, it never stops winking at the audience.

Frankly, the film is better than Statham deserves. Since bursting onto the Hollywood scene in the terrific 2000 film Snatch, Statham has made a career of starring in high-concept, high-action, low-brow, and low-effort action movies. He's the British, 21st century Sylvester Stallone. Seriously, his filmography is wall-to-wall adrenaline-pumping action movies, The One, The Transporter (1, 2, and, coming soon, 3), Cellular, Revolver, In the Name of the King, War, The Bank Job, and the upcoming releases Death Race (blatantly and shamefully reimagining the cult-classic Death Race 2000, which, of course, starred Sly Stallone) and Crank 2. Any lazy director looking around for an intimidating British anti-hero in the last 8 years has called Statham first, and he's been happy to oblige. His one moderate success was as part of an ensemble cast in the mediocre Mini-Cooper commercial, The Italian Job.

And it's not like this is a good movie. It's definitely not. But it revels in the fact that it's a bad movie. First time writers and directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor never let the film break character, cranking the action up to 11 (this one goes to 11) and refusing to back off as they hit and exceed all the typical extravagances of action movies. Explosions? Yes, so many things explode in this movie. Chase scenes? Definitely, through a crowded mall. And while receiving oral sex. Gratuitous sex? Absolutely. The aforementioned chase scene, and an absurd scene in which Statham and Smart are having sex up against a newspaper box, surrounded by cheering Chinese onlookers (some of whom are schoolgirls). All that and more. Blood and violence? Um, yes. Yes, there is. Severed hands, shots to the head, etc., etc.

As such, what could have been a mind-numbing experience turns into campy, hilarious fun. The film doesn't take itself at all seriously, and that's a good thing. The film gets serious points for its self-mockery and ridiculousness. It loses points for making me at all care what happens to Jason Statham.

So, in all, The Common Man would give this film 1 ball (2 being the highest you can go without being some kind of genetic freak). While an excellent movie for guys, it was not necessarily a good movie in general. It seemed more a glorification of the kind of violence that inhabits video games like Grand Theft Auto than a knowing condemnation of it. No one learns anything, least of all the audience, except that violence is awesome. If it could have bridged the gap to become satire, it would have gotten at least half a ball more. So now, excuse The Common Man. Not that he's influenced by popular culture or anything, but he's going to go snort an eight-ball and rob a bank.

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