All the trailers with Jason Statham injecting adrenaline and jump-starting his tongue on a car battery weren’t enough to interest us. But when we heard the work of directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor described as “a parody of an action film that still works as an action film,” well, we had to see what THAT was about. So, Crank.
Action heroes are the ultimate realists. Charged with the simple task of barreling from one scene to the next, they communicate mostly by assaulting things, and they scorn anyone—dreamers, stoners, bureaucrats, pedestrians—whose attention strays from the brutal facts at hand. Drugs are their natural enemy—not only a classic boogie man that can represent a broad range of social ills, but also an immediate threat to the action hero’s outlook on life. The action hero is necessarily sober. He needs a clear head at all times. In fact, we can add this to our discussion of the four qualities that make a man. Bond sips all those martinis and never gets sloshed. Wolverine drinks cheap Canadian beer, but it’s only a prop, a bottle to shatter before heading into battle. A hero doesn’t let drugs affect his actions. His sobriety is a virtue.
Crank turns all of this on its head. Chev Chelios needs to keep his body flooded with adrenaline or else he’ll die. So he snorts cocaine, pops epinephrine pills, accepts a strange potion from a Haitian cab driver, and generally ingests every full-throttle substance in greater Los Angeles. This is a nice turnabout for the action hero because A) a puritanical attitude toward drugs usually prevents a story from exploring certain avenues, and B) the target audience for Crank is basically a bunch of guys doing bong rips on the sofa while watching the DVD on Blu-Ray. If they’ll pay to see a man electrocute his tongue on a car battery, they’re probably no stranger to inadvisable amounts of Mad Dog 20/20. Crank gives these people an action hero who can sympathize with their attitude toward illicit substances.
But notice—Chev Chelios never gets high. The drugs actually sober him up.
That’s why he’s the action hero, folks.