Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grand Theft Auto: Crank

With Crank: High Voltage dropping tomorrow, I thought I'd take a look back at the first film. Now, I'll be the first to admit that Crank is not for every action fan. It's the kind of movie that appeals to people who like their action wild, wacky, and completely, utterly ridiculous. Crank has that in spades. Some might criticize it for simply being a video game on film. And guess what? They're right. Even the two directors admit that it's a video game movie. But it really stuck me this week that that might really be the film's point.

What got me was a message board discussion of the upcoming sequel, and the posters arguing over the justification for it. Isn't Chev dead? How can he survive falling from a helicopter? WTF? One poster laid it out by saying something along the lines of "When he beat the final boss, he got the high score and earned an extra life." Now, despite the fact that he was probably being facetious, I think that's a fairly apt way to look at the film.

I mean, when your opening credits look like this...

...It's pretty clear what you're going to get. But going further, the movie is more or less an 87 minute riff on everything that the Grand Theft Auto series has been cultivating since GTA2. First of all you've got your basic components. The film's overworld map is represented here by Google Earth, complete with logo, compass, coordinates, and location names.

Powerups? Crank's got 'em. Red Bull, energy pills, electricity (which the sequel will inevitably expand upon), hard drugs, medical remedies. Anything that might possibly get someone wired is in this film (short of coffee, strangely).

Then you've got that strange scene about two-thirds of the way through where Chev drinks the "Haitian plant shit". It's unclear whether he goes on some kind of drug trip, or what, but what is clear is that this wasn't just another 'powerup'.

Then, of course, you've got the little gameplay elements. To anybody who's ever played a Grand Theft Auto game, how often have you gotten bored of the story mode, only to find yourself steering a car into oncoming traffic, or walking up to a stranger and punching out a guy in a suit, just for the hell of it? If you're like me, the answer is "A lot.". You get those sequences here.

Particularly in Vice City, if you've ever found yourself in the mall, you know how tempting it is to just cut loose and wreak some havoc. Of course, you can't really crash a car sideways onto an escalator, but that's just about the ONLY thing you can't do.

Which brings us to that final scene. It all comes down to Chev and the 'final boss'. They're both hanging from a helicopter high above Los Angeles. At this point, he's lasted longer than anyone expected. He's probably earned a six-star wanted level, made a whole lot of GTA money, points out the wazoo. The boss is defeated, Chev crashes back down to reality, and he's dead.

But then that extra life kicks in, and here we are. Of course, High Voltage could negate all of this and just go the dumb-action-and-that's-it route. Though, I certainly hope not. So, if these movies do find a substantial audience, I'm pretty sure it'll be anyone who's ever played and enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto franchise. If anything could be said to be Crank's Ur-text, GTA would probably be it.

Just food for thought, I guess.

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