Since the weekend has come and gone and the only ones still talking about Crank: High Voltage are the critics who were forced to go to midnight and opening day screenings to write their reviews, it should come as no surprise that the sequel to the popular 2006 film did not perform exceptionally well at the box office. Indeed, it landed at sixth place in the weekend's Top Ten, grossing just shy of $7 million, while the number one film, 17 Again, raked in almost $24 million. But that's just the way that non sequitur cinema works: no matter what you hope or expect to happen next, there's no predicting how things will turn out.

Sorry, you don't know what non sequitur cinema is? Well, it's the action subgenre launched in 2000 thanks to the directorial style of filmmaker McG's Charlie's Angels which has since morphed into its own, thrilling, nonsensical entity which sometimes makes careers, but more often, claims them.

Not to be confused with real movies, these "experiences" function on a level of sensory overload that transcends such paltry objectives as character development or storytelling. Rather, they're most easily recognized by a preponderance of visual style that annihilates coherent thought, leaves eye sockets singed, and considers adrenal glands only slightly more valuable than Faberge eggs made from baby seal pelts and wrapped in bald eagle feathers. The original Angels collected enough on screen talent not only to earn it $264 million in worldwide grosses, but a sequel that made nearly as much despite making no sense at all and actually making the first film seem much, much worse than it actually is. (Ask McG how he feels about the reception of the two films if you don't believe me.)

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Subsequently, there were a number of these films manufactured on different levels both of aesthetic and monetary quality, most of which did poorly. Ice Cube's 2004 Torque netted only $45 million, despite an ending that was brought to you largely by a battle between the dueling insignias of Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew. (Spoiler alert: Mountain Dew won.) Then there was 2006's Ultraviolet, which scraped out a cool million in profit after recouping its $30 million budget. Next up was 2007's Smokin' Aces, which made $57 million (that paid for the million-dollar salaries of its 57 stars). And Shoot 'Em Up followed in fall '07, earning $26 million no doubt because it failed to show Monica Bellucci naked despite casting her as a lactating prostitute who literally has sex with the hero during a shootout.

Meanwhile, Jason Statham has almost literally made his bread and butter reveling in the nihilistic abyss of non sequitur cinema. 2002's The Transporter grossed $43.9 million, and its 2005 follow-up raced to $85 million worldwide. The third one did even better than the previous two with $101 million in international grosses, even with reviews that described the film as approximately as painful as, well, having one's heart removed, replaced with a mechanical one, and then being forced to repeatedly electrocute yourself while you try to find the thief.

All of which brings us to Crank. No matter what you thought of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's 8-bit, pornographic, misogynistic, exploitative masterpiece, the film captured a certain moment in the zeitgeist when audiences wanted to see all of those things in one place – a consortium of all-purpose offensiveness – that made $44 million from Lionsgate's $14 million investment. Is it possible that two years later, viewers are no longer interested in watching Statham's Energizer bunny, Chev Chelios, lay waste to women, minorities, and all-around good taste in the name of good old fashioned entertainment? Perish the thought.

Evidenced by the increasing success of the Transporter films, the diminishing quality of the movies themselves, much less the dedicated efforts of the critical community to highlight that diminishing quality, means little or nothing to moviegoers. So what, then, is the difference between success and failure in this rarified genre? Is it the sum total of the cast and crew's box office mettle? The movies that it competes with? Its release weekend? The fact that with the exception of my girlfriend, most women wouldn't be caught dead in Crank: High Voltage, at least not without pepper spray or a taser of some kind?

One presumes that all of these factors exert varying degrees of influence on each of these films' success or failure, although perhaps none moreso in High Voltage's case than the burgeoning box office power of Zac Efron. But rest assured that Neveldine and Taylor's failure will not augur the death of this subgenre: the duo is already hard at work on their next project, Citizen Game, which foregoes the pretense of a plot and literally features people that are players in a human video game. Meanwhile, a similarly undaunted Joe Carnahan is currently in post-production on a prequel to Smokin' Aces, which promises to detail the origins of his previous bad idea.

But given how uneven its entries, and how unpredictable the genre is, it's hard to predict what will follow, be those developments "artistic" or just commercial. Given the decreasing costs of production materials and the number of douchebags who want to be filmmakers, the possibilities are limitless – and terrifyingly so. But then again, one guesses that's the double-edged charm of non sequitur cinema – you never know what's going to happen next.

(Note: Todd is a brand-new arrival to Cinematical, although he's certainly not new to the "writing extensively about movies thing." Obviously. This was his first shot at a Cinematical editorial, and while it's a bit longer than our usual fare, I thought it was too cool to trim down for no good reason. Also I can't believe he didn't mention RUNNING SCARED! Please welcome Todd G. to the team. -- Scott Weinberg)

categories Cinematical