Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) was last seen three months ago when he fell out of a helicopter during a fight; he was presumed dead, but actually he was kidnapped by a gang of Triads who wanted something very important from him. That was his seemingly indestructable heart which they took and transplanted into somebody else, and now they are planning on harvesting the rest of his organs as well. Fitting Chev with an artificial heart, they leave him on an operating table in a coma, but every so often he will awaken from his slumber, enough to recognise the hood who has taken his heart. So when he comes to properly, his enemies better watch out...
The tagline which graced the sequel to Crank was the immortal "He was dead - but he got better", which told you all you needed to know about the preposterous sense of humour running through it. Talking of running, star Statham did a lot of that, as he had in the previous instalment, as the plot resolved itself into a mad dash around Los Angeles with our hero pausing only briefly to administer recharges to his artificial heart, which tended to wear out after anything from an hour to a few minutes, depending on how much juice he was given. In between using car batteries and tasers to fire himself up, he got into some unlikely situations.
As before, this was a cross between a cartoon and a computer game, complete with sound effects, humorous subtitles, and illustrative icons appearing on the screen to encourage the sense of crazed delirium. It's a film which has its mind continually returning to the gutter, obsessively so, in a manner which tells you this is impossible to take seriously as it packed in as much violence, nudity and swearing as it could, along with a neat line in cheerful disgust. Every scene is a setpiece, from Chelios escaping the Triads and getting the information he needs by sticking a shotgun up the arse of the unfortunate he is questioning, to the rerun of a sequence from the original where he shags girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) on a racecourse with thousands of people cheering them on (something to do with friction).
Even the guest stars had a trashy kind of aesthetic you only get with those whose fame had faded since their heyday, so Geri Halliwell appeared as Chelios's mum on a flashback talkshow, Ron Jeremy is on a picket line of striking porn stars, Corey Haim is the manager of the strip club Eve now works at, doubling as her shortlived boyfriend now she knows Chev is still alive, and most egregious of all, David Carradine doing a comedy Chinaman act. For some reason writers and directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor saw fit to include racism amidst their outrageousness, so along with some insulting language Carradine plays a hundred-year-old Chinese gang boss with comedy accent who was the recipient of the heart: this doesn't play quite as well as you assume was intended.
Yet Crank: High Voltage does get away with a lot, as its relentless bad taste is presented with a cheeky wink as if to say, "Come on, you can't really be offended by this, can you?" Statham has probably found his best role in Chelios because it allows him to be the tough guy while still offering the spoofy nature of his screen image to show through in its best light, and as hard to believe as it all is, you can just about accept it with him in the lead part. However, after two movies full of this, it's not that the invention flags, as in that final half hour there's a head kept alive in a fish tank to contend with for a start, it's simply that you feel as if you've seen enough, and that nothing the directors can do will surprise you anymore. There's only so many times you can take the shock treatment that Chelios exists on before the effects wear off, and you simply cruise to the end with a wry smile, but a feeling that the novelty has dissipated. Music by Mike Patton.