Sure, the characters are one-dimensional, the plot is derivative (Speed, D.O.A.), and even the photography is a carbon copy of TV's smash hit "CSI." (The odd beating hearts are graphically shown pumping away-as if this clinical revelation has not already become a tired cliché.) But what Crank does have going for it is pacing at breakneck speed, and an athletically astonishing lead performance by Jason Statham that should entitle him to an Olympic medal in lieu of an Academy Award.
This film, despite its flaws, moves faster than a cadre of souped-up Porsches. Everything is sacrificed for speed. The premise is that hit man Chev Chelios (Statham) has been poisoned with a "Chinese" concoction that leaves him one hour to live--unless he can keep moving long and fast enough to find the proper antidote. And, of course, in addition to this million-to-one medical quest, Chelios feels obligated to find and kill the vicious gangster, Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who personally injected him and phones him periodically to gloat about it.
From the moment Chelios leaves his dour but handsomely decorated apartment until the inevitable mano-a-mano with Verona, he charges through Los Angeles like a stampeding buffalo with head down and horns lethally pointed straight ahead. Civilians are knocked aside like bowling pins. Car chases straight out of "Grand Theft Auto" punctuate his journey. Since Chelios can only sustain his life with adrenaline, d.p. Adam Biddle rarely permits camera movement to flag, and when Chelios does pause you can bet the cinematography will be buzzing around the leading man and his targets like African killer bees.
All of the characters are caricatures except for Chelios' girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart). She is a cipher, at best; her behavior is limited to whatever witless fantasies writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor conceive. The charming Smart is given such thankless chores as making love on a crowded sidewalk, and shrugging off her boyfriend's rapidly increasing homicide count.
Still, the filmmakers may strike a cord with those adolescent males who haven't yet matriculated. Neveldine and Taylor have created an 83-minute roller coaster designed to shock the gullible, and in the process they denigrate Arabs, Mexicans, Chinese and women--as well as that old hilarious comic foil, the Los Angeles Police Department. Crank ranks among the most mindless action films ever made, but scores as a helluva video game.