April 19, 2019

Revisiting a Murder: The Crow: City of Angels

If you know me, you know that my favorite movie is The Crow. I am not saying it is the best movie, but it is the movie I can return to time and time again and walk away satisfied. It is a movie that just strikes all the right chords for this fan. It was one of the first movies that I saw more than once in the theater. I can go on and on about The Crow, but this piece isn’t about that movie. It is about the first of the trio of sequels that were produced, and the only one to that made it to theaters. The Crow: City of Angels was released in 1996, a late August release where it won its opening weekend, but faded pretty quickly. It ended its run with a box office gross just shy of $18 million.

The Crow: City of Angels had a lot to live up to as the original was a minor hit and the film quickly became a cult favorite, not to mention the electric performance from Brandon Lee who died tragically on set. In addition, there was a lot of disagreement during the film’s development. There was an idea to set it in Victorian times, another to bring back Sara from the first film as the titular hero, and even bringing back a couple of villains from the first. In the end, they did bring Sara back, but the rest of the film, at the studio’s insistence, plays very much like the first. Not that that is a bad thing, but this does have to be considered a missed opportunity in expanding what a Crow movie could be. That said, I do really like this outing.

Director Tim Pope and writer David S. Goyer (Dark City), i have read, have distanced themselves from the final project as it does not resemble the vision they went in with. Still, I am not so sure they should be all that disappointed, if the reports are indeed correct. The movie may follow a similar structure to the first film, but you still have a movie with a great look to it, a strong lead performance from Vincent Perez (Queen of the Damned) and a fun gaggle of baddies including an early Thomas Jane (The Mist) performance, punk legend Iggy Pop, and even a Power Ranger in Thuy Trang.

The story this time out, centers on a single dad, Ashe Corven (Perez), and his son, Danny, who happen across a group of the local drug kingpin, Judah Earl (Richard Brooks), as they are disposing of a member of their opposition. We all know what happens when you stumble across bad people doing bad things, right? Bad things happen to you. Judah orders the father and son be killed and dumped in the bay.

Being a Crow movie, when you and a loved one have been murdered in heinous fashion, you may be brought back to have your taste of vengeance. Fortunately for Ashe, Sara (Mia Kershner), the little girl from the first film is all grown up and has been having visions of Ashe. She finds him as he is brought back and helps him navigate his return and his purpose of vengeance. It also gives a reason for him to have a similar, yet distinctive, face paint to Eric Draven in the original film.

What follows is Ashe tracking down the gang members and working his way up the food chain until he has the inevitable showdown with Judah. Of course, by that point, Judah has learned of the Crow and its power. The ending of this film does get quite bizarre, even with how strange the movie is already. The way it does set up a third film nicely, even though it is ultimately never followed up on.

I feel like this movie is quite underrated. I obviously understand the love for the first film and the reverence for Brandon Lee’s performance, but the world is open for others to add to the legacy of the character. I think Vincent Perez brings a lot of emotion to the role and anguish over the murder of his son. The bad guys are suitably slimy and despicable characters, particularly Iggy Pop and Richard Brooks, both bringing distaste to the screen and both delivering memorable performances.

Another element that works for the film is the return of Graeme Revell as composer and the collection of alternative acts on the soundtrack. The music goes a long way to setting the mood and work as so much more than just a collection of songs. Plus Revell’s sore captures the gothic feel of both of these films.

The Crow: City of Angels is a good movie that deserves to be re-evaluated. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, just give it a fair shake. It may be flawed, but it is still a solid and enjoyable movie. It is definitely a style over substance, but don’t discount the substance. I look at the Crow films as being super-stylized exercises in production design and action staging, but also an excursion into the realm of emotion. It is that marriage of emotion, action, and style that keeps me coming back time and time again.



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