After the huge success of “The Crow”, one automatically assumed that a sequel would soon be in the works. However, due to the tragic death of the original film’s star, Brandon Lee, there was some doubt as to whether or not a new film should be made. In the end it was decided that each new Crow film would feature an all-new character taking over the avenging mantle.
This decision didn’t set well with some fans of the original. Many of them felt that continuing the series without the presence of Brandon Lee would be trampling upon the memory of his performance. Personally, even though I do agree that Brandon Lee portrayed the best version of the Crow, the idea of changing out the main character every time suited the franchise perfectly. Not to mention, the original film didn’t exactly leave an open ending for the return of Eric Draven. So, even if Brandon had lived, I think this was the proper course for the series to take.
“The Crow: City of Angels” is set in a city resembling a completely depraved version of Los Angeles. Slowly destroying this city one life at a time with a highly addictive drug is the sick and twisted Judah Earl (Richard Brooks) and his gang of deviants. One of their latest victims, a man named Ashe (Vincent Perez), who was brutally murdered along with his young son by the gang, has returned to avenge their deaths. Joined by a mysterious young woman named Sarah (Mia Kirshner) and the mystical crow, Ashe begins his mission of revenge. However, will he be strong enough to stop the evil that destroyed his life?
Despite the assurances from screenwriter David Goyer that this film would rock, while paying respect to the first film, and above all, please even those fans of the original that felt it was tantamount to sacrilege to continue the series; in the end, this sequel just does not work. So, how could this happen when it seemed that the movie had so much going in its favor?
Well, for starters the story written by David Goyer (“Batman Begins”) is even darker, more twisted, at times sadistic, and utterly weak that it can’t help but pale in comparison to its predecessor. The original film was dark, and featured some undeniably twisted characters for villains, but they never reached this level of depravity. Even in that film’s darkest moments I didn’t get the sense that those times were simply being included gratuitously to push the envelope of edginess in film.
For instance, there were numerous occasions where rather than include some much needed character or plot development the movie opted to show more sadistic and/or perverse imagery. Typically this was done at a time when Ashe was soon to be encountering one of the gang members responsible for his murder. Obviously these scenes were to make us hate the villains even more than we already do. The problem is that these moments occur far too often in a single 90 minute movie. Plus, it was a lazy way to convey the evil inherent in a particular villain, so that when Ashe dispatches his brand of justice the audience will be completely on his side. This was unnecessary because only the coldest of viewers would not completely hate characters willing to kill a father and his son. So, to go to such extremes just to give us these extra tidbits of incentive to root for Ashe was irrelevant.
I for one don’t want to be force fed in such an obvious fashion via these demented sequences that this gang and its leader are evil incarnate. Find some compelling way to tell the story, and over the course of the movie reveal these various criminal activities or dark traits to me. You don’t have to beat me over the head with this crap in an almost non-stop manner for me to understand the sheer malevolence on display. I’m not so dense that I can’t pick up on plot points and character development spread out over the course of a movie.
Beyond the degeneracy on display from the completely one-dimensional villains, the two “good” characters Ashe and Sarah were uninteresting and boring compared to any of their forebears from the original. Their moments together were intended to showcase them as star-crossed lovers, plus give us some insight into their characters. Ultimately though, there was no real spark between the two of them and I never really got to learn much more about them either. Part of me believes this is due to neither performer really giving their all in the scenes, on top of the fact that the script was paper-thin.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for the obligatory flashback sequences filling us in on what happened to Ashe and his son, we really wouldn’t know much about him or care. Truth be told, the only reason we even remotely root for him to succeed is because of the unbelievably heinous nature of the criminals he’s hunting, which again is due to the repeated usage of disturbing imagery and the flashbacks of the murders.
As for Sarah, there were several unanswered questions surrounding her character. Such as, what exactly is her link to the mystical crow and how did it come about? Plus, is she on the run from her memories or just can’t stand being in a single location for too long? Maybe her whole backstory is a combination of the two or neither. Whatever the case may be, screenwriter David Goyer managed to mishandle virtually every single aspect of this film’s story from start to finish. This meant that no matter how incredible the director or actors and actresses may come across, the movie was destined to fail from the get-go.
It is due to weak points in the story such as these that led this sequel to feeling like some half-hearted, under-developed attempt at cashing in on the previous movie’s success and perhaps even the memory of Brandon Lee. Thankfully, in the years since “The Crow: City of Angels” David Goyer appears to have fine-tuned his writing skills, and has crafted many a terrific screenplay. Perhaps it was just an off day for him when he wrote this drivel or the studio and/or director hamstringed him during the filming and editing processes. Who knows?
Speaking of the film’s director, Tim Pope, this is as far as I can tell his only feature film work to date, otherwise he’s typically a music video director. I will grant Tim that he was straddled with a shoddy screenplay full of sickness and disgust, so the task of making this film even remotely entertaining was daunting. Although, he is apparently a fan of rocker Iggy Pop’s, who also happens to appear in this film and Iggy is one twisted individual from what I can tell. So, maybe this movie wasn’t a challenge to work on after all, except for the whole “make it entertaining” part. Hmmm…
Anyways, I should give some credit to Tim and his crew for creating a very eerie atmosphere for the movie. Where the original film seemed to borrow heavily from Tim Burton’s influence, this movie featured a distinctive tone all its own to set it apart from not only the previous movie, but any comparisons to other darker heroes as well. Beyond that, I don’t have anything really good to say for Mr. Pope, because he doesn’t appear to be all that talented of a director in my estimation. Every scene featuring the criminals felt repetitive, as did scenes of Ashe riding his motorcycle or talking with Sarah. Nothing about this movie’s visual style, beyond the look and atmosphere, stood out or was exciting in any respect.
Finally, we arrive at the film’s cast, or as I think of them, the last remaining weak links in this already fragile chain. To begin, new lead star Vincent Perez (“I Dreamed of Africa”) was a poor follow-up to Brandon Lee’s superb performance as Eric Draven. Now, I didn’t set out to compare the two actors’ performances, but being a sequel a comparison is inevitable and in my estimation, warranted. Vincent never seemed to possess, or at least be able to convincingly convey the rage of his character the way Brandon did with Eric. With Vincent, he always seemed uneasy and when he did begin to cut loose in a possible fit of rage, he wound up looking goofy. Plus, his character seemed too effeminate much of the time, so I was never really sold on him being the avenging type, which would be the key for Vincent to really sell this character to the audience.
Portraying the only returning character from the original film, Sarah, although this movie is set several years later in her life, is actress Mia Kirshner (“The Black Dahlia”). Mia as shown in various other projects, both in film and on TV, is a very capable and talented actress. Yet her portrayal in this film, as I touched upon earlier, is incredibly disappointing and uninspired.
Maybe her reasons for not appearing as committed to the role as I felt she should be is due to her character’s bizarre, unexplained traits and lame story arc. I mean, if I were in her shoes, and given a character that is exhibiting odd abilities and seems to be on the run from something in her past (which doesn’t make sense given how things were looking up for her at the closing of “The Crow”), then I would probably find it difficult to get into the role. So perhaps the blame cannot fully rest with her, but must be laid once more at the feet of David Goyer and his script, or director Tim Pope.
Rounding out the main characters of this movie are actor Richard Brooks (TV’s “Law and Order”) and rock star Iggy Pop (“Snow Day”) as the film’s primary villains. Actually, I must correct myself, if you looked at the movie’s screen time for the various characters, you would make the assumption that these two villains were the only main characters of the story, and that Ashe and Sarah were ancillary roles rather than the leads. Anyways, I digress.
As the leader of the gang responsible for Ashe and his son’s murder, Judah Earl, is Richard Brooks. Much like Mia Kirshner, I know Richard Brooks is a capable actor in other roles, but even though his actions are despicable and steeped completely in all things evil, he as a character was never menacing. His performance just never really sold me on Judah being this man that commands the respect of all these deviants that he surrounds himself with, and that he would be in control of an apparently vast drug empire. I just don’t see how he would have risen to such a powerful role compared to some of his underlings, in particular the most immoral and wicked of the gang, Curve played by Iggy Pop.
Speaking of Iggy, his portrayal of Curve was over-the-top, twisted, and had an underlying streak of insanity running throughout. Out of the entire cast, Iggy’s was the only performance that was interesting, if for no other reason than that I wasn’t sure what exactly he was going to do next. So at the very least he proved to be an intriguing presence, even though his character takes part in seemingly every vice conceivable by man. That being said, he also is given numerous ridiculous lines of dialogue that are so bad it’s laughable, and many times he seemed to be overacting which made his performance amateurish at best. It is with those thoughts that make the fact that his was the most memorable performance of the bunch, all the more sad and pathetic.
You know, it’s a shame that such an excellent movie could kick start what should be a promising franchise, only to have said franchise begin to falter with the first sequel out of the gate. But, that’s what happens when your follow-up is plagued by a horrible script that is bogged down by the sickest and most twisted individuals one can conceive of, uninteresting performances for the most part, and repetitive sequences that show zero creativity or imagination. If you enjoyed the original movie, but never got around to this particular sequel, feel free to skip it. Trust me, you haven’t missed anything.
“The Crow: City of Angels” is rated R for violence, language, and pervasive sexuality/nudity.