The Crow: City of Angels (VHS, 1996)

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2nd Verse, Same as The First? Not Quite

Aug 23, 2004 (Updated Aug 23, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Very gritty and intense; with fine stunts and drama.

Cons:Dips very heavily into the "drug and sex culture"; Perez is no Brandon Lee

The Bottom Line: Gritty and intense; not quite as "rich" as the original, yet it stands up well in the series.

I have to admit, when I like something, I follow its progression quite closely. This can lead to problems, such as when I was still single and followed that young coed onto the bus and ended up at the convent, but those days are behind me now. Besides, I'm referring to a series of three movies, beginning with The Crow starring Brandon Lee, and continuing with this, The Crow: City of Angels and ending with The Crow: Salvation
I'd call this more of a follow-up than sequel; actually, this is very nearly a remake of the original in terms of plot and structure.

The movie begins with Sarah,(Mia Kirschner)whom Crow fans will recall was a streetwise preteen kid in Detroit in the first movie, now a young adult living in Los Angeles and working in a tattoo parlor by day, and painting haunting, surreal images of death and resurrection in her apartment at night.

Sarah is dreaming of the brutal beating and murder of Ashe Corven (Victor Perez) and his son David at the hands of enforcers of a drug cartel, whom they witnessed killing one of their own members. Ashe and David are captured, viciously beaten and terrorized with Ashe pleading for the life of his son, then tied together, shot multiple times, and their bodies are tossed into the harbor. I think you could call this "overkill"; but when you are trying to dispose of witnesses, you might as well do a thorough job, I suppose.

Sarah is haunted by this disturbing dream, and after a day's work in the tattoo parlor, she is visited in her apartment by a large crow as she contemplates a ring given to her years ago by Eric Draven, the first Crow. She follows this crow to the harbor, and witnesses Ashe's resurrection and frantic escape from his watery grave and takes him to her apartment. Ashe wants to know who she is, and how he survived the brutal attack on himself and his son. When Sarah informs him that he didn't, he "freaks out" and runs screaming into the night, (which I guess I would do, given the circumstances) and eventually ends up at his home, where, like Eric Draven in the first film, he relives his final moments of life in a series of flashbacks. Sarah arrives to find him brooding, and informs him she knows what he has come back to do, and he agrees; he has returned to take vengeance on the ones who killed him and his son. With a little black and white face paint in the now-familiar harlequin's sinister mask, black clothing and leather duster and a high-performance motorcycle,a new Crow is born.

First to go is a thug named "Spider Monkey",(Vincent Castellanos, and here we go again with the strange criminal nicknames)whom Ashe tracks down to a peep show, of all places, where Spider is sitting in a booth and has paid his token, and is oggling a voluptuous woman and wildly whacking his Willy. (I've never before had a chance to use that phrase in a review). The token runs out, the panel closes, and Spidey frantically inserts another token and the moment while the panel slides back open to reveal Ashe, who dives through the glass and takes the discomfitted Spider Monkey through a wall and smashes him brutally to the floor. Bye bye, Spidey.

One of the better stalk-and kill sequences involves the thug "Curve". (Iggy Pop, who also contributed music to the soundtrack)Ashe pursues Curve on a wild motorcycle chase, zips past him and blows him off of his motorcycle with a shotgun at nearly point-blank range, then drags the barely alive Curve into a drainage canal under the freeway to float away and die. "Nothing personal, sport" he says, echoing Curve's own words to him.

More of the criminals are still out there, of course, including the crimelord himself,"Judah", (Richard Brooks)who runs his cartel like a quasi-voodoo cult. Judah has in his employ a blind prophetess called "Sybil" who has foretold his death at the hands of Ashe. Sybil is also able to mystically ascertain Ashe's link to Sarah and to the crow that is the source of his powers, and Judah captures Sarah to draw Ashe to him and steal his power.

He might've taken better care of his lieutenants, one thinks; Judah has left a woman known as "Kali"(Thuy Trang)in Sarah's apartment as bait for Ashe; while battling her, Ashe realizes that she is the one who murdered his son, and he promptly goes wild and beats her to death.

All that is left is for Ashe to seek out Judah in his lair; an abandoned church during a "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) festival for the final conflict.

Like the original, this is a gritty and intense film, relying heavily upon the "drug and sex" culture as its primary backdrop. |Perhaps somewhat too heavily; peep shows, bondage and fetish clubs, and near-pornographic moments are sprinkled liberally throughout the film.

There are also multiple similarities between this film and the original. Most outstanding is Victor Perez himself; the man's physical resemblance to the late Brandon Lee is almost uncanny. I've read, in fact, that this is one of the reasons he was chosen for the role.

This notwithstanding, in this film Ashe and his son are brutally beaten, terrorized and murdered by a gang of criminals with odd nicknames, in the original film Eric Draven and his fiancee are brutally beaten, terrorized, and murdered by a gang of criminals with odd nicknames, and it doesn't stop there. Sarah is kidnapped in both films to set a trap for the Crow; also in both films the crimelord relies heavily on the advice of a mystic "seer". There's enough here to qualify as a remake of the original rather than as a sequel to it.

Victor Perez is no Brandon Lee; I've said that before. Physical resemblance aside, he has neither Lee's intensity in the role, nor his physical grace. Brandon Lee's Crow was infused with cold rage,fierce grief, powerful intensity, great sadness, and dark humor. Perez's Crow seems mostly to be driven by wild grief which has pushed him past the edge of sanity, which works, to a point, but isn't quite enough. Granted Ashe Corven and Eric Draven are two very different character types, but the Crow is lacking some of the original edge. Perez is ok in the role; he just can't equal the original.

Mia Kirschner does very well as the adult Sarah; she's both the link to the Crow and to the original film; and ties the two movies together. She looks good (|I like the wing tattoos on her shoulders) and she is a sad yet strong young woman with a great wisdom beyond her years.

Richard Brooks misses some crucial force as Judah. The character is flat, with little affect and little energy, mostly emoting in a near-monotone.He seems tired and uninterested in his role.

Among the thugs, Iggy Pop stands out as Curve. He's a "gleeful maniac" of sorts; with such expressive features that I thought his eyeballs were going to leap off of his face.

As a whole, this is a crucial part of the Crow Trilogy; while Perez has his failings, and it is for better or worse more of a remake than a sequel, there are sterling moments and gems all the way through.

yours until someone starts painting my face black and white,

Hugh U. Kidden

Recommend this product? Yes

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