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Review: 'Crank' is a blast from the past on 4K

Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 3:19 PM Central

by John Couture

It's funny. When Blu-ray first came out, studios raced to release as many of their films on the new format as possible. That being said, there are several notable films that have never even been released on Blu-ray.

When 4K UHD came out, I was concerned. I didn't think that Clerks needed a Blu-ray release, so how will I feel when it gets the inevitable 4K UHD release? There's a fine line between a cash grab and genuinely servicing the movie aficionado community.

Crank falls somewhere in the middle.

For those of you that may have forgotten over the last dozen years or so, Crank tells the story of a hitman who has been injected with a poison that messes with his adrenaline levels. Basically, if he's unable to keep his heart rate up, he will die. Think of it as Speed, but instead of a bus, the MacGuffin is Jason Statham's body.

When I first heard that Crank was going to be released on 4K UHD, I was excited because my vague recollections of the movie were consistent with a film that was tailor-made to be showcased on 4K. Upon closer inspection, I had completely forgotten about the interesting filming decisions that make it an odd choice for the new format.

The film was shot on various digital cameras that were specifically targeted for the new 1080p Blu-ray format. This included several close-up scenes with Statham and several sources that were even shot in standard definition. These SD shots weren't as noticeable on the original Blu-ray, but they stick out a bit like a sore thumb on the 4K UHD.

And yet, the new Dolby Vision HDR video track is a nice enhancement to several scenes, particularly those shot in low light. The enhanced life-like colors though were a bit jarring at first. In its original release, the oversaturated skin tones gave the film a dream-like quality that seemed to match the absurdity of the plot. Now, with the incredible life-like colors, Crank is given a new tarnish that borders on the depressing.

In a way, it's like painting your walls a new color. You liked the old color well enough, but there's something about the new color that is a bit off-putting. The new color is a daily reminder that you wish you had never painted the walls in the first place. In several scenes, I found myself wanting to revisit the dreamy world in which I first experienced this movie.

Also, there are certain elements of the movie that don't really play in the same way as they did when the film was originally released. In particular, the public sex scene in Chinatown was a bit hard to watch in a post-#MeToo world. While you can forgive Crank in much the same we can classify exploitation films for being a product of their times, it is a bit jarring to see that scene under the microscope of the current time period.

And yet, the saving grace of the 4K UHD release of Crank is the new Dolby Atmos audio track. While the industry is quick to tout the visual enhancements of 4K UHD, it has been slower to point out the wonderful new depths that an augmented audio track can give a movie.

Crank is a perfect example where the Dolby Atmos audio track alone is worth the investment. The tension in the film is heightened thanks to the richer audio channels and better use of the positioning. Whether it's Jason Statham's beating heart or the flying bullets, the new Dolby Atmos audio track truly brings the movie to life in your living room, for better or worse.

Crank is one of those films that truly marked a new and lucrative genre for Hollywood. It wasn't just action, but adrenaline junkie action and it's an area of expertise that Jason Statham has perfected over the years. Speaking of, the actor has another high-energy action film coming out later this year called Hobbs & Shaw. The spinoff from the Fast and the Furious franchise will get Statham fans in a reminiscent mood and should lead to decent business for Crank on 4K UHD.