Real time thrillers are hard to pull off. The suspense is defeated to some extent because the audience knows more or less exactly how much more of the movie is left and therefore spends their time plotting out in their minds where the movie is going instead of just enjoying the ride. Usually movies like this involve something that MUST BE DONE or a location that MUST BE REACHED in that period of time, usually with something valuable to the protagonist being held, Sword of Damacles-style, over his or her head. Sometimes it’s the life of a child, sometimes the fate of the nation â€“ basically anything the person being manipulated holds dear.
Sometimes, as in the case of Crank, it’s the protagonist’s own life. Except, in the case of Crank, the only thing the anti-hero gets is vengeance since he knows he’s going to die. Jason Statham plays a professional hit-man who is injected with a toxic substance that is shutting off production of adrenaline. When that production stops he dies. So, to buy himself enough time to find those who killed him, he embarks on a journey to keep his adrenaline up by driving fast, killing people, beating up bad guys and generally doing everything there are rules in society telling you you’re not supposed to do. He just needs to find his killers before the adrenaline shuts down. Let’s take a look at the campaign.
Lions Gate produced three posters for Crank, which range in quality from great to very good to a tad boring.
Let’s cover the great one first. A human heart is suspended against an off-white background. Except it’s not just a heart, it’s one with a number of nails pounded into it and which is bisected by a (presumably adrenaline) needle. It’s funny and gory and outrageous and definitely wins points for originality. I get the feeling this one was produced especially â€“ if not solely â€“ for the internet crowd and denizens of underground record and comic shops. It’s simply too graphic for display in a suburban cineplex, where kids on their way to see Barnyard could be among its viewers. It’s perfect, though, for purveyors of manga, anime and online cinephiles.
The very good one shows Statham’s arm reaching up into the camera’s view while holding a gun. The title â€œCrankâ€ is written on his arm like a raised blood vessel. It’s pretty cool while not being as over-the-top as the first poster. Still, if you’re squeamish at all you might not be a fan of this image. I actually think this is less effective at conveying the attitude of the movie than the first one. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it doesn’t get to the heart (heh) of the matter as well as the nail-ridden heart poster does.
The final theatrical poster for Crank is the one that I would describe as vaguely boring. It simply has Statham walking away from an exploding car. It’s boring because that image has been used countless times by action films, either within the film itself and/or as part of the marketing campaign. You know what I’m talking about, the image of our hero jumping off the ship just as it explodes so we see a silhouette against the ball of flames. There’s nothing inherently threatening or original about someone walking away from something unless it’s Martin Sheen walking away from the hut where he’s just butchered Marlon Brando.
Pretty wicked cool trailer. It starts, much like American Beauty does, with Statham introducing himself and informing us that this is the day he dies. He stops the narration and backs up and it’s then that we’re given the plot setup. That plot â€“ which on its face is absolutely ridiculous â€“ is explained very well and in a completely serious manner that makes it utterly believable. In between little bits of plot we’re shown some of the measures he goes through to keep himself hopped up on adrenaline. Those include picking a fight in a room full of thugs, having a doctor in a hospital shock him with the cardiac paddles and generally behaving like an anti-social thrill seeker. At the end of the trailer it’s glimpsed that his exploits have garnered the attention of the media, which comes to report on his final stand-off.
It’s a fast-moving and very exciting trailer that conveys the most marketable parts of the movie â€“ over-the-top stunts, Amy Smart and a laughable plot â€“ very well. I once heard a description of the rock band Cheap Trick that said they played mediocre pop songs but played them like their lives depended on it and that’s what made them rise above the rest of the bands that were playing mediocre pop songs. The same can be said of the trailer for Crank. It’s a mediocre rock song â€“ in this case a ludicrous movie in a see of other ludicrous movies â€“ that never lets the pace up and therefore comes off as more exciting than the rest. It doesn’t spill too much, but then again I get the feeling there’s not all that much to spill.
While nicely designed and full of cool streaming video interludes when you move from one section to the next, the website doesn’t contain all that much that’s new or innovative. Those video segments that play in the background, though, go a long way toward making the site seem exciting, which enhances the experience quite a bit.
When you first load the site you have quite a number of options to either leave the site or check out or do something before you get into the real content. Click on â€œCrank at Comic-con 2006 and you’ll get a text recap of and pictures from the Crank panel at the recent Comic-con. There’s also a link to the Lions Gate â€œMessage Boardâ€ for the movie. If you want to get updates about the film you can do so in one or both of two ways, either via email or on your mobile phone. For the latter there are instructions right there on where to text to get registered for the updates. Finally, there are links to the MySpace profiles for both the movie and its soundtrack.
Let’s go ahead and Enter the Site. Everything here, for the most part, is nicely labeled and not confusing at all. It’s also, for the most part, pretty cut and dried. â€œSynopsisâ€ is just what it sounds like and, while a bit short, is probably just as long as the movie’s plot requires and that’s exactly as long as it should be.
â€œVideoâ€ and â€œTrailerâ€ contain three TV spots and the trailer, respectively. The TV spots work about as well as the trailer and, in fact, contain mostly footage already seen in the trailer. They all have a little different focus or feel but all of them keep up that breakneck pace.
I realized it’s country music star Dwight Yokam who plays Statham’s drug expert buddy, the one who tells him what poison he’s been injected with, when I looked at the â€œCast and Crewâ€ listings. Everyone’s bios are pretty good, if a bit sparse. You’ll find almost 30 still images in â€œGallery,â€ which is more than I was expecting for a movie like this. Most of the images are ones we’ve already seen, but they do make it easy to download those pics, which is nice.
You’ll only find a selection of desktop Wallpaper and some IM Icons in â€œDownloads.â€ Finally there’s â€œVideo e-Card.â€ This is probably the coolest part of the site. Select three of six available video clips and arrange those three in any order you want to assemble your own promotional video. You can then send that homemade video to a friend. What I like about that is that it gets you involved in the brand a bit more than usual. The only thing I would have liked to have seen added onto this is the ability to put the finished video on your own blog or site. Since there are a finite number of ways to combine video clips it shouldn’t have been too hard to have that many variations on the code available. That’s a small quibble with what is otherwise a fine feature.
This is one of the first films I’ve reviewed where I got a package of promotional items from the studio for the flick. They were delivered inside a paint can (I’m assuming this ties into the movie in some regard) and were a mix of actual branded items and other loosely associated goods. Here’s the list:
â— Promo DVD with a trailer and two clips from the flick
â— T-shirt with the â€œHeartâ€ image on the front and the film’s URL on the back
â— Branded notebook
â— Two highlighters in the shape of needles with the movie’s name imprinted on the outside
â— A whole bunch of temporary tattoos of the â€œHeartâ€
â— Three postcards â€“ One â€œHeartsâ€ and two with the â€œArmâ€ poster image
â— A bag of Starbucks coffee
â— Two cans of Red Bull
â— One Power Bar
I loved getting this package. And not only did I take pictures of everything I got and then put them on Flickr and then my blog, but I was talking to everybody I saw later about it and distributing some of those temporary tattoos. That’s what I call enabling word-of-mouth.
Lion’s Gate also was among the first advertisers to buy front-page ads on YouTube.com for Crank and the trailer for the flick has continued to appear there off and on since then.
Some (alright, most) action movies have ridiculous plots that require a good deal of belief to be suspended by the audience. Few are as completely out of this world as the plot that drives Crank. But the campaign sells it, and does it well. It’s winking at the audience the entire time but not in a way that insults your intelligence but just enough that you know it knows it’s crazy and cartoonish.
The posters are, for the most part, strong, the trailer is fun and the website is designed to move so fast you don’t really stop to think about how crazy what you’re looking at is. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it. Statham’s character has to keep moving so as not to die and the campaign mirrors that nicely. Just keep moving and you’ll be fine. It’s a good campaign, with the added bonus of some cool promotional swag that was created and sent out.