A Real Hero Never Gets Crunk


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.



  1. Didn’t James Bond get drunk on martinis in his newest film? I seem to recall.

    Also, thanks for bringing up Mad Dog 20/20, which really isn’t cited enough in literary and film criticism, I find. Plus, it gives me a chance to answer a recent burning question: Just what is it?

    Fortified wine, kids. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MD_20/20. Watch yourself.

  2. Yeah, the James Bond in the new Casino Royale gets drunk on his special martini recipe. I didn’t bring it up because it’s a counter-example to my point. But I’m pretty sure it was intended as a trasngressive, you-didn’t-see-it-coming type of thing, and if that’s the only instance of James Bond getting tipsy in all of his 20-odd movies, then it might be the exception that proves the rule.

  3. From “Scouting for Boys,” the original 1908 edition by Robert Baden-Powell:

    “Remember that drink never yet cured a single trouble; it only makes troubles grow worse and worse the more you go on with it. It makes a man forget for a few hours what exactly his trouble is, but it also makes him forget everything else. If he has a wife and children it makes him forget that his duty is to work and help them out of the difficulties instead of making himself all the more unfit to work.

    “A man who drinks is generally a coward—and one used to see it very much among soldiers. Nowadays they are a better class and do not drink.

    “Some men drink because they like the feeling of getting half stupid, but they are fools, because once they take to drink no employer will trust them, and they soon become unemployed and easily get ill, and finally come to a miserable end. There is nothing manly about getting drunk. Once a man gives way to drink it ruins his health, his career, and his happiness, as well as that of his family.”

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