From the very first scene of Crank we are forced into a mind altering world of drugs, and for the rest of the film our hero will use drugs from moment to moment, finding that they are often all that is keeping him alive. The other things that help to keep him alive are sex and violence, and they are used in graphic excess as is the case with the drugs. The irony of these actions is that he doesn’t do them for the pleasure they might bring another person, but simply to stay alive. It occurred to me about halfway through the film that the filmmakers often seemed to go out of their way to put our hero in a whirlwind of unsavory and immoral situations that make Grand Theft Auto seem respectful towards humanity, but there are postmodern hints that the filmmakers know exactly what they are doing. As much as I tried to figure it out for myself, I found myself going in circles.
Crank is so over-the-top with the sexist, racist and exploitative behavior, it would be easy to quickly dismiss it as a piece of garbage that should be kept from our youth at all costs. Strangely enough, however, the filmmakers are making a comment on all of these acts, whether they realize it or not. The concept alone is absurdly daring in its ridiculousness. A high-level mob hit-man wakes to find that he has been injected with a poison which will slowly lower his heart rate until he dies. His only chance for survival is the hopes that he can keep his adrenaline up, using drugs, using women and destroying life all around him in the process. We laugh because he is irritated by the fact that his girlfriend (Amy Smart) doesn’t have a cell phone, something which is socially appalling in this day and age, even to a man who kills people for a living. As we laugh at such a small thing, there is hardly a flinch as our “hero” disarms and taunts a police officer before taking his motorcycle. As extreme as the filmmakers try to be in the absurd and unforgivable actions onscreen, most of them will be accepted easily, losing the point of the film completely.
Nearly all of Crank can be tied to some form of entertainment or piece of pop culture which has changed the way we see the world. From the news coverage of a horrific gunfight at the end of the film to the voyeuristic way a couple of predictably dressed sex symbols in the form of Asian schoolgirls witness a public sexual attempt to raise adrenaline, Crank seems to be winking at the audience with each offensive scene, almost expecting that as long as there is a postmodern element all else will be forgiven. This might have worked for better filmmakers, such as Tarantino, but part of the problem with the statement about the sad state our pop culture has turned to is placing this statement in a genre which relies on all of these elements. Instead of making a point, Crank simply feeds the hungry audience exactly what it came to see.
The subtle hints scattered throughout the film are exactly that. They are far too subtle for a film which has no need for any subtlety. A particularly strong image is of one of the many scantily clad women in the film encased in a plastic bubble and displayed on rooftop while powerful men meet. Perhaps it was coincidence, but although there were several women in these display cases, the one that seems to be favored looks remarkably similar to Britney Spears. Once the shooting begins these human trophies are trapped in their own surroundings, just as it seems that Spears will continue to be trapped in her display case that has countless people shooting at her each day as well, only with film rather than bullets. This is just one of many subtle hints thrown in, each making a valid point, but each also sadly lost amidst poor direction and a disorientating and flashy style which is bound to have audiences either appalled or cheering the violence rather than seeing the message behind it. What could have been a strong statement against the direction our popular art takes in fulfilling the male fantasy (in one scene as Amy Smart is orally pleasing a driving Statham as he is pursued by violent killers, she stops long enough to gasp, “You’re so big), instead it just feeds more of the same junk into the system.