Film: Is The “Crank” series the grind cinema for our time?

I’ve spent the past 4 1/2 years studying film. This past year, my hard work was rewarded with a framed piece of paper that solidifies this. And pretentious babbling on our own blog is going to be the only way I use said degree.

One thing I took away from my studies is a new-found appreciation for, what is largely know as, trash cinema. How did I spend my past two Saturday nights? Why, the director’s cut of The Toxic Avenger and re-mastered edition of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, that’s how! Grind films are as horrific as they are entertaining to me. They present the kind of freedom/surrealism in cinema that Salvador Dali could appreciate despite the fact that someone like Frank Capra would be puking all over his shoes. Counter-culture films are how I like to see them.

Grind films were the most prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s, then kind of got washed away for a few years. There were some cases that popped up in the 90’s (I would argue that some of Lynch’s films, ie Lost Highway, share some similarities), but for the most part, it had nearly dissipated. Thus, when Crank first appeared in 2006, a dim light had be re-ignited. Hell, Crank was so extreme, it flared up like a fire in Backdraft.

Sexploitation, class abuse, racial stereotypes, and top it all off with a bit of the old ultra-violence. It was an immoral, cinematic car wreck that had me calling “Shotgun!” I loved it! A true escapist film. A sympathetic hitman who, when poisoned with “The Chinese Shit,” is forced to keep his adrenaline up in order to stay alive…or at least long enough to get his revenge! It was the kind of film that hasn’t been seen in cinemas for a long time.

Crank was filled with send ups for a generation fueled by video games, blood-thirsty media, energy drinks and Google. A grind film in every way possible. Last weekend saw the release of it’s hellbent brother, Crank: High Voltage. After surviving the events of the first film, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) returns to hellish streets of Los Angeles. This time, someone’s taken his heart, and replaced it with an artificial one, and he has to keep it electrically charged until he can track down his original ticker. For the next 80+ minutes, the film somehow manages to offend, entertain, and disgust more than the original.

Crank has kicked opened a door that was on it’s way to being dead-bolted. So, the question is, “What comes next?” I’m hopeful that another entry in the series is on the way, but what about the rest of Hollywood? With studios like Lionsgate and Rogue, true genre pictures have a haven, but it’s not a very lucrative one. In the wake of a water-boarding administration, can Americans seek refuge in the likes of characters like Chev Chelios and The Toxic Avenger? Or are we afraid that Jack Bauer is sitting two rows behind us?

-Chase

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