I was being Mark Kermode again today. (You can download the podcast if you like. It’s currently one place ahead of the Collings & Herrin podcast – that’s how popular it is.) I won’t run through all the much better films I reviewed, but I will tell you that I paid to go and see Crank: High Voltage, the sequel to Crank, before the show. This is because the film company opted not to show the film to critics. I don’t know what they were frightened off, since this is a franchise with a ready-made audience who are unlikely to be swayed by soppy old critics. Anyway, I felt I should see it to get a fuller picture of what’s out at the multiplexes this week, and it was showing at midday at the Shepherd’s Bush Vue, so plenty of time to fit it in at 96 minutes. However, I walked out after 26 minutes.
You might call this a dereliction of critical duty, but since I had paid to see it, I was a member of the public, not a critic, and as a member of the public, I could take no more of it. It’s not that it’s especially badly made – I like the way Jason Statham has become a marketable Hollywood action star, the high concept of his character having to keep restarting his artificial heart while he tracks down the triad men who have stolen his real one is good, and it’s all done with a certain degree of frenetic, offbeat style – but I just wasn’t prepared to sit through any more of a film that seemed to so despise women, especially foreign women, but in the absence of foreign women, American women would do.
During the first 26 minutes, Statham’s character Chev Chelios beseiges a rundown brothel, throws lots of male clients out of the windows, and sends lots of scantily-clad Asian prostitutes running into the street, some of them – tee hee – not wearing their tops (you could see their breasts and one of them fell over and everything). One of them, a pretty thinly drawn stereotype, starts yelling at him and offering to have sex with him at the same time, and he keeps impatiently telling her to shut up and go away until it turns out she has information that will help him find the bad men. She sends him to a strip club, full of lap-dancing, gyrating ladies, again with no tops on, one of whom – story alert! – turns out to be Chev’s girlfriend from the first film. She has black tape over her nipples and some revealing hot pants on.
Meanwhile, Dwight Yoakam, reviving his weird doctor character from the first film, is seen speaking on the phone while absent mindedly rubbing an ice cube around the buttocks of a black lady who is lying across his lap. She doesn’t seem to mind, so maybe it’s his wife or partner. Back at the club, Chev snogs his girlfriend, which suggests he likes her, but then the shouty Asian prostitute gets shoutily jealous and punches the taped-nipples girlfriend in the face. And then there is a big, noisy shoot-out, during which another lapdancing lady, caught in the crossfire, is shot in the artificial breasts. I think we were supposed to find it funny that a mixture of blood and sillicon was pouring out of the holes in them, while she wailed in obvious distress. I can only imagine that to a Nuts or Zoo reader, this worldview is not only realistic, but also aspirational. I could take no more and voted with my feet. I know there are men out there who dislike women, but I would rather not hang around with them.
I am not calling for Crank: High Voltage to be banned. (It does carry an 18 certificate, which legally means that no Nuts or Zoo reader can go and see it.) But I very rarely walk out of films, and I make no bones about the fact that I walked out of this one. I’m sure the film carried on being exciting and fast for the remaining 70 minutes, and some other women had no tops on, and I hope the four other men in the cinema enjoyed it.