Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Crow: City of Angels

Title: The Crow: City of Angels
Director: Tim Pope
Released: 1996
Starring: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks, Thuy Trang, Iggy Pop, Thomas Jane, Vincent Castellanos, Eric Acosta, Beverley Mitchell, Ian Dury

Plot: When mechanic Ashe (Perez) and his son are murdered under the orders of Los Angeles drug kingpin Judah Earl (Brooks) after they accidently witness a murder being carried out by his followers. Resurrected as the Crow Ashe now sets out to seek his revenge.


Review: It was always going to be a difficult task to follow on from the cult original film but believing that they could make a franchise out of the idea, the Weinstein’s offered the job to Music video director Tim Pope for his feature film debut. They also brought in David S. Goyer to write the script who at this point was yet to really make a name for himself having previously written the scripts for “Death Warrant” and “Demonic Toys” with this film sitting on the cusp of his mainstream success as he also working the scripts for “Dark City” and “Blade” at the same time he was writing this script.

Moving the story from Detroit to Los Angeles the look of the cityscape is still pretty much the same landscape of seemingly eternal darkness and urban decay. Despite this similarity Pope and Goyer had initially wanted to make a film which was different from the first film especially out of respect to Brandon Lee. who only for the Weinstein’s in their usual misguided wisdom to make demands for the film to be recut so that it was similar to original as possibly ultimately leading to both Pope and Goyer disowning the film as it no longer represented their vision. Goyer was especially dismayed by the changes having fought to cut out the resurrection of villains Top Dollar and Grange from the first film.

One character who does return from the first film as well as admittedly older is Sarah who is no longer the skateboarding tomboy of the first film but here is all grown up and working in the city as a tattoo artist and painter. Here she serves to fill in the mythology when required as she helps Ashe on his quest for vengeance. One of the potential scripts for the film had her returning as the female Crow, which while certainly a cool idea is one I was glad they didn’t go with for the film and even though Sarah returning wasn’t anywhere on the list of things I’d want to see from a sequel here it still works and her appearance also means we get to see Ian Dury showing surprising acting ability as her boss Noah.

Equally surprising in their acting ability is Iggy Pop whose acting C.V. is surprisingly more extensive than his brief appearances in “Tank Girl” and “Hardware” and here as one of Judah’s thugs “Curve” he makes up for turning down the role of “Funboy” in the original film and turns out to be one of the better aspects of the film and really gives us one of the more odious villains of the film and arguably the real villain of the piece had they choose to cut out the theatrical antics of Judah. It equally be noted that the amount of musicians appearing in the film would have been increased has the casting gone differently with Jon Bon Jovi originally being interested in playing the lead while Tori Amos was considered for the role of Sarah only for her to turn down the role.

The role of the Crow as played by Perez is thankfully not a rehash of the Eric Draven version of The Crow and even though the make up makes little sense that he would share the same dark Jester design. True Perez overplays the theatrical moments as seen during the scene he stalks Spider Monkey (Castellanos) which just comes off as deranged than intimidating. Still seeing him stalk his foes with his Spirit crow on his shoulder looks fantastic much like the scenes of him riding through the streets on his motorcycle. It’s just a shame that he’s not given anything to do which makes him any more than your usual action hero, only pulling out the one creative kill through the film and certainly giving us none of the themed kills while the Crow outlines often end up feeling forced.

The villains we get this time round are far from as defined as they were in the original film and ultimately come off as something of a mixed bag of undeveloped characters who like so many aspects of the film you can’t help but feel would have been much more effective had their characters been given chance to breathe. Sure they all have their own vices (drugs, voyeurism etc) but with the exception of the sole female member Kali (Trang) they are nearly all interchangeable. Worst of all is out supposed big villain Judah who is just a mess of theatricality and mystic nonsense. Perhaps Michael Wincott set the bar too high as “Top Dollar” in the first film but here everything about Judah feels like a poor imitation.

While the mythology of “The Crow” was kept simple in the original film here the film attempts to expand upon things so that its no longer the case that Ashe has his powers while the crow is alive, but also that its a power which can be transferred which feels like one of those ideas which might have worked in the script but only serves to take away from the film which in its final quarter ends up descending into mythical nonsense including Ashe being able to command a murder of crows which really add nothing to the film.

When I originally saw this film I honestly didn’t care for it, but now rewatching it and knowing what to expect it feels more frustrating to see glimpses of what could have been had it not been ultimately another casualty of Weinstein meddling. What it did give the franchise though was the potential to go anywhere it wanted essentially as no longer was “The Crow” just Eric Draven but essentially any person who was wronged and in the films / novels / comics which followed we have seen that principle creatively used aswell as the series “Stairway to Heaven” which ran for one season before being axed on a cliffhanger. In the scheme of the franchise this might not be the worst, but its a far cry from the best and as such provides little than a passing distraction for fans of the series and little really for anyone else.

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