The movie released last year that felt most like last year was Crank 2: High Voltage. I’m serious.
If Up in the Air is an example of what we want a movie that speaks to the current moment to look like, Crank 2 is what such a movie would actually look like.
Yes, Crank 2 is the appallingly violent story of a tough guy who, moments after falling out of a helicopter (at the end of the Crank 1), is peeled off the pavement by a Chinese gangsters who remove his heart and replace it with a shoddy mechanical one. (They need to put in the mechanical heart to keep his other organs viable for harvesting, particularly his penis. Still not kidding.)
And yes, the tough guy’s malfunctioning artificial heart requires him to periodically electrocute himself to keep it running while he’s kicking ass through a bunch of racially specific gangs in search of his original heart. That’s not to mention his Tourette Syndrome afflicted sidekick or stripper girlfriend.
It’s all wildly offensive and racist, but so broad in both that it feel like it’s commenting on crazy action movie violence and stereotypes. Which is a nice way of saying that some audiences will laugh with the jokes while others will laugh at them, and both groups will feel mostly fine about themselves afterwards.
Crank 2 is like a period specific update of Caligula that’s replaced the sex with violence, and the violence with more ridiculous violence. Despite featuring a bushel of porn stars and a herd of boobs, it’s not a bit sexy. That it easily qualified as mainstream entertainment says nearly as much as its story.
The right way to watch Crank 2, copyright-aside, would be on a bootleg DVD, complete with the guy holding the camcorder occasionally talking back to the screen and getting the shakes. It feels practically designed for it. (And it’s basically how the movie was filmed in the first place.)
We live in a Wile E. Coyote world at the moment. We’re constantly being (metaphorically) beaten up and have the nagging suspicion that, though we hope the worst is over, we’re about to find out that there’s only air under our feet. Crank 2 captures that.