SAN DIEGO — You probably already know that Jason Statham could kick your butt. And it isn’t a major stretch to assume that Efren Ramirez would make for a very ugly woman.
When filmmakers proudly compare their product to a Keanu Reeves action flick, it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t gunning for Oscar nominations. Providing a sneak peek of their hyperactive upcoming movie, Ramirez and Statham insisted that it isn’t what you know about “Crank” that’s important — it’s whether you can keep up with the extreme way the film presents it all.
“It’s the most freestyle movie I’ve ever seen,” said Statham, the beefy “Transporter” star who headlines the flick that’s being billed as “Speed” meets “D.O.A.” “I’ve always wanted to do a film like this. I get to do a lot of action films, and most of them always have restrictions on them. But this, for me, is an undiluted version of what I’ve always wanted to do. There was nothing stopping us from making it.”
The twisted tale begins when hit man Chev Chelios awakens to learn that he’s been injected with a “Beijing cocktail” — a lethal mix of poisons that will cut off his adrenaline and invade his heart — and he has one hour to live. Chelios discovers that keeping his adrenaline level up can temporarily hold the poison at bay. Now it’s just a simple matter of finding the antidote, uncovering his would-be killers and keeping his heart rate somewhere between that of LeBron James and Lance Armstrong in action.
“It’s two hours of a pure adrenaline rush,” said “Napoleon Dynamite” actor Ramirez, who spins his image on its head as Chelios’ cross-dressing street buddy. “If you want to get a taste of what ’Crank’ is, don’t eat breakfast, don’t eat lunch, don’t eat dinner and just drink coffee all day. That’s what ’Crank’ is like.”
The high-powered flick — which co-stars Amy Smart as Chev’s long-suffering girlfriend and Dwight Yoakam as the demented doctor who guides him through his day from hell — comes from a concept by fearless first-time writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
“The way it’s shot, that in itself is unique,” Statham said of the gritty, high-definition camerawork that drops you into the middle of Chev’s rapidly collapsing Los Angeles purgatory. “We had Mark chasing me around on a pair of Rollerblades with a backpack. I mean, the camera never stops moving — it’s just pure madness. And the passion in it is very strong.”
That passion surfaces in some unexpected ways. “My character is completely in love with Jason Statham,” Ramirez revealed. “His name is Kaylo, and he’s a transvestite. He’s a two-[sided] character, where he lives his day life and then his night life. But as we all know, every time we live two different lives, they tend to bleed into each other.”
By the end of the flick, the characters have been run through a rapid-fire meat grinder, with a gun-wielding, car-crashing, defibrillator-dependent maniac leading the way. “It’s dark, twisted fun,” said the London-born Statham. “I go through some pain several times, and then I end up in a pile of my own spit and sweat. It’s pretty intense, to say the least.”
So when “Crank” rushes its way into theaters on Friday, you might see a lot of things you already know, but that doesn’t mean you’ve ever seen anything like this. In fact, both actors often fell back on the word “indescribable” while trying to explain it all, and Ramirez finally just threw up his hands and struggled to liken “Crank” to another film of his.
“You think of ’Napoleon Dynamite,’ where you have such creative characters in the film,” he said. “Just like in ’Crank,’ where there’s so much creativity with every single character. All these characters are so farfetched that you think, ’Do these people exist?’ ”
“It’s good! It’s mad!” Statham promised with a sly grin. “It’s right up my alley.”
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