The first Kranked was one of the original freeride films, bringing a dose of ski film style to mountain biking. There followed a succession of sequels, but it’s been three years since Kranked 5 came out. Since then, producer/director Bjorn Enga has been doing other stuff, but now there’s a new Kranked that looks both back and forward. Which is a clever trick.
Rather than being a collection of largely unrelated segments, Kranked 6: Progression is a “concept” film. The concept is that the featured riders build and ride their one ultimate trails, with each being filmed in a top-to-bottom style (you won’t be surprised to learn that there’s not much climbing going on…).
Each segment begins with a few words from the rider in question, which generally serves to demonstrate that most riders should let their riding do the talking.
While the idea of progression and rider-built trails is a good one, there’s a slight problem in that most of the featured riders seem to be progressing in roughly the same direction. So there’s a great deal of North Shore/slopestyle kind of stuff. A lot of it is filmed in the same bits of BC, although the terrain is at least reasonably varied.
As a result, the bits that stand out are the ones that are a bit different from the rest. Eric Porter’s segment in the Alps is one example, a melange of high alpine singletrack, DH race style mixed in with backflips, handplants and the like. Kirt Voreis comes up with a kind of combination of North Shore and BMX street, only on big boulders. And Steve Peat and Nathan Rennie rather subvert the whole thing by not building a trail at all, but showing how to ride one all the same.
It’s Ryan Leech’s segment that’s the real highlight of Kranked 6, though. The “trail” that he designed is truly bonkers, being a trials/North Shore hybrid arrangement of branches, logs, strange toadstool things and unlikely-looking combinations of ramps. For added variety, he rides it on a full suspension bike, which looks faintly odd but somehow well-advised.
Of all the riders, it’s Leech who really seems to have taken to the concept. His trail is markedly different from everything else and most closely meets the “progressive” ideals of the film. And the presence on the soundtrack of him puffing and panting as he rides it leaves you in no doubt as to how ridiculously hard it is.
Rounding off is Mike Kinrade with some backcountry big-mountain freeriding that harks back to the big steeps of the very first Kranked, only more so. Backflips are in danger of becoming a cliche, but right out in the middle of nowhere they take on a new appeal – a backcountryflip, if you like.
Unusually amongst MTB films, there’s an original soundtrack. It’s the work of Wicked Lester – original it may be, but it seems to be often “inspired” by other things – a lot of it sounds strangely familiar. The absence of any singing is welcome, though – it works well as an accompaniment to the visuals. Given how undistracting it is, it’s perhaps slightly ironic that the package includes a soundtrack CD, but there you go.