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Crow, The: City of Angels Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 March 2001

The Crow: City Of Angels

Miramax/Dimension Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks, Iggy Pop
release year: 1996
film rating: Two and a half stars
sound/picture: Three and a half stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

'The Crow: City of Angels' is a follow-up (calling it a sequel implies a continuity that barely exists) to the 1994 action/fantasy-thriller 'The Crow.' The original film, whatever its merits and drawbacks, is still known principally for the tragic on-set accident that caused the death of star Brandon Lee.

The new movie lacks its predecessor's bad karma, but it also is missing most of the earlier 'Crow''s sense of purpose. Indeed, 'The Crow: City of Angels' is a lot easier to appreciate if it's viewed as a long music video with a narrative thread than an actual movie with a fleshed-out plot.

As in the original, "The Crow" is the ghost of a handsome young man brought back to the land of the living to avenge the murders of himself and a loved one. In the first 'Crow,' Lee's Eric Draven had been killed with his fiancee; here, Vincent Perez as Ash first sees his little boy shot in front of him, then is drowned by the same heartless gang members. Ash is guided by a mysterious crow into the big bad city where he encounters beautiful tattoo artist Sarah (Mia Kirshner), who explains to the anguished, bewildered man that he's a ghost. Ash finds the gang members one by one and slays them in various painful ways, while gang leader Judah (Richard Brooks) tries to destroy the source of Ash's power.

The foregoing makes more sense as written than as dramatized. There are various explanations about the literal crows--at one point, we're told they're spirit guides; at another, they're supposed to be spirits themselves. Director Tim Pope creates a green-tinted, glowing nightmarish look throughout that is striking in controlled doses, though he gets a little carried away with the symbolism (the supersized crow logo that Ash leaves after each kill is a bit much even in this context). He also revels in showing the sadism on both sides, which will appeal to certain segments of the audience but ultimately seems to be taking up running time where plot should be. The screenplay by David S. Goyer, based on James O'Barr's series of comic books, doesn't provide much in the way of characterization or structure, though Perez's depiction of personal suffering elicits sympathy for Ash. Brooks' villain is a little too cool-blooded to be an ultimate threat; Iggy Pop as his chief lieutenant is a little scarier and a lot more lively. Another demerit: the major bad guy is black and one of his sidekicks is Asian, while all of the good guys are white. Too much p.c. may be a bad thing, but racism is no fun either.

The wall-to-wall growling music score, with contributions from Hole, Filter, Bush, White Zombie, PJ Harvey and others, fits the thrashing, violent images. The quality of musical reproduction and all the clanking, crashing sound effects are fine, but the dialogue seems muffled at a number of points throughout the film; it's intelligible, but it helps to crank up the volume when people are speaking. Without having seen 'The Crow: City of Angels' in a theatre first, it's impossible to determine whether this sound mix problem existed in the original release or is new to the DVD.

One very peculiar discrepancy in the DVD of 'The Crow: City of Angels' is its running time, which is about 90.5 minutes, even though the packaging lists it at 93 minutes. One wonders if this is a typo on the box or if are there 2.5 minutes floating around the editing room that might explain some of the movie's more enigmatic developments. Either way, 'The Crow: City of Angels' is more nasty than scary and far more flashy than substantial. However, if you're in the mood for glitzy, druggy evil and a hero with a serious, understandable grudge, this is an eye-catching riff on the theme.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Digital
aspect ratio(s):
special features: English and Spanish Subtitles; Chapter Search
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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