Like its predecessor, Crank: High Voltage is speedball cinema, a pure narcotized rush of blistering action, odious stereotypes, and shock-for-shock’s-sake nastiness. Giving the middle finger to the P.C. police is what the series is founded on, and directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor certainly attempt to outdo themselves with this gonzo sequel, which—given that its protagonist unequivocally died at the end of the last film—doesn’t have any real business existing in the first place. Nonetheless, as confirmed by its ridiculous tagline (“He was dead…But he got better”), High Voltage takes great pleasure in being nonsensical, which appropriately describes these further exploits of indestructible hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), who after an Atari-graphics recap of his fatal plummet from a helicopter, awakens in a makeshift hospital room where Chinese thugs steal his heart and replace it with an artificial one. When they threaten to next remove his giant dick, Chev gets his rampage on, kicking off a SoCal search for his ticker during which he has to constantly electrocute himself to keep his chest’s mecha-organ running.
As before, this gimmicky race against time inevitably leads to Chev bashing and smashing as many tattooed minority villains as 85 minutes will allow, as well as once again filthily screwing girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) in public before callously discarding her like so much trash. It’s a template that Neveldine and Taylor employ for all manner of extremeness, from a stripper having her breast implants’ silicone leak out of bullet holes, to Chev erotically rubbing up against an elderly lady for a charge of static electricity, to numerous gags in which penises and nipples (the directors’ two preoccupying infatuations) play a prominent role. Along the way, an uneven array of supporting weirdoes helps skuzzify the madness. While casting Corey Haim as a mulleted gutter-dweller is apt, and shoehorning Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell into a superfluous flashback sequence has a random charm, the rest of the peripheral players mostly contribute little more than bad ethnic prosthetics and makeup (David Carradine and Clifton Collins Jr.), wannabe bizarre body-gyrating conditions like full body Tourettes (Efren Ramirez), or garbled Engrish (Bai Ling) that amplifies the noxiousness of lines such as the Full Metal Jacket-meets-2 Live Crew zinger, “You own me long time.”
Unsurprisingly, the barrage of over-the-top madness quickly becomes enervating. Each successive scene is so palpably desperate to scandalize an audience eagerly awaiting oh-no-you-didn’t material that the opposite holds true, with a hallucinatory brawl inside a power plant—featuring Chev and his foe transforming into Godzilla-style giants wearing grotesque masks of their own faces—and a finale involving a talking decapitated head and Chev defiantly refusing to burn alive proving the only moments that truly take the proceedings into unexpected realms. With its spazzy camerawork, gruesome violence, wantonly vulgar depiction of women and non-Caucasians, and recurring sights of Chev zapping himself with jumper cables and tasers, the film’s craziness is clearly of an R-rated Loony Tunes variety, with the charismatically tough-yet-clownish Statham as the saga’s psycho Bugs Bunny. This cartoonishness seems, in theory, intended to magnify, and thus highlight, the sadistic brutality, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny familiar to the action genre. Yet considering the glee with which the directors indulge their ugly impulses, there’s ultimately no critique here, just revelry, meaning that to fully embrace High Voltage, one must be honestly amused by bon mots like Chev asking an Asian adversary, “Did I drop some change, or did I hear a Chink?” Good luck with that.