In this week’s super-charged sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit, Crank (60%), the writing-directing team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (known simply as “Neveldine + Taylor”) continue the adrenaline-pumping adventures of hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) — who, as you may recall, experienced quite a rough 24 hours in the first film. You didn’t think a little high-altitude fall from a helicopter could keep Chev down, did you? This Friday’s Crank High Voltage picks up right where Crank ended, and Rotten Tomatoes was on set at various locations during production to witness manic action, public indecency, Bai Ling craziness, leather-clad biker shoot-outs and good old-fashioned fun — all the makings of a true-blue Crank flick.
Last spring, Rotten Tomatoes was lucky to be invited on two exclusive visits to the set of Crank High Voltage, where co-writers and co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank, Pathology) were putting poor Jason Statham through the ringer yet again. As the sequel picks up, Chev Chelios — who’s just killed his enemy, Ricky Verona, while falling from a helicopter — has survived the plunge and been scooped up by a band of Chinese medics. Chev wakes up after his heart has been surgically stolen and replaced, and must keep his temporary heart electrically charged just long enough to win back the girl (Amy Smart), fight off foes old and new (Clifton Collins, Jr., Corey Haim, David Carradine), and get his ticker back.
RT first visited the set during filming at the Hollywood Park Race Track, where Neveldine and Taylor were setting up Statham in scenes against the backdrop of live horse races. Only a section of the place had been roped off for filming; elsewhere, the track was filled with its usual Wednesday crowd. (Anyone in the industry will swear that movie sets are boring, but we won $15 between takes!)
Extras filled an outdoor scene as Statham stumbled through the crowd, in pursuit of Triad thug Johnny Vang (played by Art Hsu). It seems that Vang is connected to the Chinese gang that stole Chev’s heart, and though Lionsgate and the filmmakers are keeping a tight lid on spoilers, don’t be surprised if connections between familiar faces and new ones are revealed.
Off to the side, a little old lady sat in a chair patiently waiting for her big scene. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know which little old lady this was — Chev’s “dirty little whore” — against whom he rubs up at the track in order to generate friction. The entire set was tittering with anticipation to watch Statham slyly molest 87-year-old actress Danna Hansen, whose credits, incidentally, include bit parts in Being There, Stir Crazy, and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington. Needless to say, Hansen took the Statham rubdown with admirable grace, giving Crank 2 one of its standout comic gags.
True to their reputations, Neveldine and Taylor are more hands-on in filming than most directors, and shoot most scenes themselves. They work in tandem, each operating their own camera, and have been known to capture action sequences by following a rig on rollerblades. It’s no wonder that co-star Bai Ling called the pair young, crazy, and free: for Crank High Voltage, they upped the DIY factor by daring to use equipment that no other studio filmmakers have — consumer cameras.
It’s a producer’s dream, since Neveldine + Taylor’s cameras of choice both cost only a few thousand dollars apiece (the $3500 Canon XH-A1 and the even lighter, cheaper, Canon HF10, which runs about $1000); using in-camera tricks and their own cinematography, they promise a film that’s stylistically close to the first Crank — kinetic and handheld, with a picture quality that’s something between digital and film.
Next: RT visits the Malibu mansion for bikini babes, Bai Ling, shoot-outs and more
A few weeks later, RT dropped by a Malibu mansion off the Pacific Coast Highway for more exciting fare: namely, to watch girls in bikinis, shoot-outs, Bai Ling, and Efren Ramirez. These were scenes that ostensibly occur at the end of the film — where else do shoot-outs belong? — and we were treated to one HUGE spoiler… which, of course, we can’t disclose here. More on that later.
It was a delightfully tacky mansion, rumored in real life to have been constructed as a gift from some rich man to his lady. In Crank 2, this is where the beaten Chev Chelios winds up, alone amongst his enemies including Clifton Collins, Jr., who returns as El Huron. Bikini-clad beauties (and one entirely naked actress) lounge by the pool, as kept hussies are wont to do in the movies. “Vegas-y, shiny, sparkly…slutty,” is how the costume designer described the ladies, who variously scatter and are hit when gunfire explodes.
It’s here that two angels of sorts come to Chev’s rescue. The first is Venus (played by Efren Ramirez) who is the twin brother of Chev’s former sidekick, Kaylo (also played by Ramirez), who met his end in Crank. Venus is the polar opposite of Kaylo in appearance, and Ramirez was clearly having fun with it. Shirtless and wearing black leather pants, he’s a 5’7″ Goth–punk dynamo who comes to avenge the death of his brother — with a little help from a gaggle of gay leather-clad thugs and eccentrics.
Equally bizarre is Chev’s other new sidekick, Ria (played by Bai Ling, who we interview here), a free-spirited street walker who devotes herself to Chev — against his wishes — when he saves her life. Ria shows up with her posse of Asian female toughs (and a machine gun) to help Chev at the mansion.
As Ramirez practiced his stunt moves and his nunchaku skills by the pool, Bai Ling told us about how she played her character. “Ria is a beautiful, free, giving and loving character,” she said. “There’s an innocence in her. She’s crazy, but she’s innocent. I was telling my stunt double, she said, ‘How should I run through this fire?’ I said, you have to be crazy free, fun, and not controlled.“
While Statham gets most of the action in High Voltage, Ling says she gets a fair share of her own. “I have lots of ‘I’m gonna kick your ass!’ scenes. I kick them, I run through fire, I get hit by a car, I’m running with one shoe that has no heel…it’s a lot of action, a lot of humor. The film has a sense of humor; [my character] is kind of wacky, funky, modern, young, a free-spirited character.“
But back to that spoiler. Suffice to say, there’s a surprise waiting for Chev Chelios when he gets to the mansion…a real “WTF?” moment for fans. All will be revealed this Friday, as Crank High Voltage opens nationwide.