"CRANK" — ** — Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam; rated R for (violence, profanity, drugs, gore, sex, nudity, vulgarity, racial epithets); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16 (Sandy); Century Theatres 16 (South Salt Lake); Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing; Megaplex 12 at the Gateway; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Megaplex 20 at the District.

The plot of the action/revenge-thriller "Crank" is very similar to the 1994 hit "Speed." The crucial difference, aside from the cast, is that this film revolves around a seemingly doomed hitman who's racing towards his demise instead of a seemingly doomed vehicle that's racing towards explosion.

He's Chevy Chelios (Jason Statham), the chief enforcer for a Los Angeles area drug lord (Carlos Sanz). A jealous rival (Jose Pablo Cantillo) has injected him with something called a "Beijing cocktail," a lethal combination of chemicals that is slowing his heart down and will eventually kill him.

Until then, he's being kept alive by adrenaline. As long as he drives at break-neck speed, exacts revenge on his former employers or has a public dalliance with his girlfriend (Amy Smart), Chev's heart continues to beat.

Yes, it is preposterous nonsense. And filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (a former stunt coordinator and effects wiz, respectively) have directed it to look and feel like a video game.

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But the film hits the ground running and never lets up. The plentiful action sequences and occasional bits of comedy — both intentional and unintentional — add up to make the film almost delightfully trashy. There are times the film threatens to turn into a good "bad movie."

As for Statham (the "Transporter" movies), he may be a little one-note, but he does have a commanding, convincing physical presence. And the knowing performances by Smart and Dwight Yoakam, who plays Chev's seedy doctor friend, seem to indicate they realize just how ridiculous this stuff is.

"Crank" is rated R for strong scenes of action violence (gunplay, knife fights, hand-to-hand combat, vehicular violence and explosive innuendo), pervasive sexual language (including profanity, vulgar slang terms and innuendo), strong drug content (use of cocaine, stimulants and hypodermic needles), graphic gore, simulated sex and other sexual contact, flashes of female and partial male nudity and use of racial epithets. Running time: 83 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com