So I was talking to a friend the other day about what makes a movie good. His assertion was that a meaningful message was at the core of a truly good film. I was about to agree with him when suddenly I remembered the Crank movies. I mean, they were rubbish and had no message whatsoever, or any redeeming value for that matter. Yet I fucking loved them for some reason. So I set out to figure out why that was, and I stumbled upon an answer - Movies only suck when they're pretentious and try to act like they're more intelligent than they really are. I don't know about you, but I hate when I'm watching a movie and it's just saturated with some life lesson. I'm not opposed to "message movies" - I just hate it when the director is hitting you over the head with the message so hard that it takes you out of the film. Or when you're watching a film and it's trying to pull off that classic Spielberg dramatic "shell shock effect" where the sound fades out and everything's sort of blurry and dreamy...but it just doesn't work because the scene wasn't dramatic to begin with. They're trying to amplify drama that simply wasn't there. As a result it becomes laughable. But I digress.
The Crank movies simply accept that they are B-grade schlock and they revel in it. They're completely ridiculous and fucked up films in every way possible but that's why it works so well. Basically, the Crank films are good in the same way cheesy b-movies and Sci-fi Channel originals are good. And the best thing is the directors know it, they don't act like the films are anything special.
In Crank 2 there's a scene where for no reason in particular the characters transform into giant Japanese monsters and start duking it out over a tiny model city. That pretty much encapsulates the whole film for me - there's no rhyme or reason for any of it. It's all being done because it can, even if it's so completely stupid and out there. But the best thing is the filmmakers aren't acting like they're trying to convey any sort of profound message or anything, because there isn't one.
You know how in martial arts movies the protagonist is always some holy dude who wouldn't hurt a fly and the first half hour is some build up of him with his family and meditating and helping his uncle run a convenience store in Manhattan or some shit? You think people see those movies for that? You think they give a shit about your stolen elephant or buddha head, Tony Jaa? No way. Okay we get it, he's a common man just like you or me, just trying to get by. He's got a Hero's Journey style destiny to fulfill. Get to the ass-kicking already.
Neveldine/Taylor do just that.
Crank's not about a normal guy driven to the edge, the protagonist is the best hired gun in LA - not some average Joe. The buildup takes about 3 minutes, and zoom, we're off to the races.
Sure the movies are fluffy shoot-em-up action with no redeeming value. They're campy. They're neo-hypno-nihilistic piles of crap. BUT THAT'S WHY THEY'RE SO GREAT. These guys know their films are total blood-splattered schlock. They're not trying to win any Oscars. They revel in their unconventional balls-to-the-walls in-your-face hypnotic shock imagery. And you know what? It's not a bad thing at all.