Friday, September 14, 2012

As the Crow Flops: "The Crow: City of Angels" (1996)

This sequel to the hit starring Brandon Lee in his last film role has none of the original's characterization, and the cinematography is so yellow, the film stock may have been soaked in a puddle of piss.

Ashe (Vincent Perez) and his young son Danny (Eric Acosta) are murdered by a bunch of drug dealers after they witness a murder. Ashe returns from the dead and is discovered by Sarah (Mia Kirshner), supposedly the girl from the first film, who is now a tattoo artist trying to help the helpless in Los Angeles. What follows is an astoundingly simplistic revenge drama: Ashe is the supernatural personification of the crow, and hunts down the murdering gang one by one, dispatching them in grisly ways and leaving his crow calling card. Eventually, the gang kidnaps Sarah, and Ashe loses his powers to the gang's leader, Judah (Richard Brooks).

No other film in recent memory has been as ugly as this one. Like I said, the film stock looks like it was marinating in a rich urine-based sauce. As the first film was black as pitch (and more effective), this film looks like my VCR is failing. Ashe comes back to life, and has his revenge. There is no tortured soul, no questions about violence begetting violence, this film degenerates into something akin to a slasher film. An unkillable being is stalking and murdering a supporting cast one by one. Substitute topless camp counselors for the gang, and a hockey mask wearing lawn implement wielder for Ashe, and you have a "Friday the 13th" entry.

The special effects are very good until the climax. "The Crow: City of Angels" is so unrelentingly ugly, as we are treated to Ashe and Danny's deaths again and again, and Los Angeles has never looked more like Dante's version of hell, that the viewer will eventually succumb to the darkness and give up all hope, too. Despite all the mayhem, there is not a cop in sight, and Perez does not make a terribly convincing avenger. While there are some good effects and direction, eventually this is just another excuse to milk a hit film with little of the first's originality.

The fact that Brandon Lee died so young because of an accident while filming the original makes me sad. What's next? Finding a Vic Morrow look alike to shoot another "Twilight Zone: The Movie?" Oh, never mind, a fourth installment of "The Crow" is set for next year, starring Edward "are my fifteen minutes up yet?" Furlong. You can always rely on Hollywood. (*) out of five stars.