When Mirimax Films released The Crow it became an instantly iconic pop culture classic. Brandon Lee’s tragic death only lent a further sense of grief to the movie’s story. Arguably, the soundtrack was also the perfect time capsule of the eclectic alternative music scene from the era. Given its box office success, The Crow inevitably spawned a sequel, The Crow City of Angels. Though emulated the original’s look and story, City of Angels disappointed fans and underwhelmed at the box office. In short, the sequel was a mess. Of course, the sequel’s misstep didn’t stop two even more disappointing sequels from surfacing. The Crow Wicked Prayer was the nadir of the franchise. Now nearly 25 years later, is it time to critically re-evaluate the first follow-up to The Crow? Has The Crow City of Angels aged well? Or is it still just a bad movie?
When Ashe Corven and his son witness a gangland shooting, they’re brutally murdered to eliminate witnesses. But a crow once again brings back a tortured soul to right these wrongs. Now a resurrected avenging angel, Ashe hunts down the killers responsible for his son’s death.
The Crow City of Angels a Choppy, Messy Sequel
Where to start with The Crow City of Angels? Today, there are plenty of rumours of behind-the-scenes meddling with story direction, etc. To some extent, this is a movie that feels like the editing process chopped up and mangled the story. There’s often a feeling of disconnection from one scene to the next. Things just seem to randomly happen as we get the inevitable acts of revenge. And oftentimes scenes feel out of place exacerbating problems with the story’s comprehensibility. One gets the impression that competing creative interests pulled the sequel’s story in different directions. Writer David Goyer tries to introduce a wrinkle – an avenging angel conflicted between vengeance and a possible life with the now adult Sarah from the original movie. Clearly, someone else didn’t like he direction.
But the sequel’s frenetic action scenes makes most of the action scenes difficult to follow.
Prior to The Crow City of Angels, director Tim Pope primarily work on music videos. Not surprisingly then, the movie looks and flows very much like something you’d see on MTV in the mid-90s. Both the production and visual design are quite good, creating an appropriately hellish landscape. And Pope knows how to pose his characters for a handful of iconic shots. But the sequel’s frenetic editing makes most of the action scenes difficult to follow. As insult to injury, Pope’s climax set against the Day of the Dead festival is listless and mired by poor effects.
The Crow City of Angels Suffers From Questionable Casting Choices
No one was going to replace Brandon Lee. But The Crow’s revenge and redemption formula should have been ideal for launching any charismatic young performer’s star. Yet across the board The Crow City of Angels’ casting underwhelms. Swiss actor Vincent Perez, while talented, is woefully out of place as Ashe Corven. On one hand, it’s often difficult to understand what Perez is saying. But he’s also missing Lee’s charisma that mingled so well with his character’s grief. All of the villains this time around feel like a downgrade. As compared to Michael Wincott’s Top Dollar, Richard Brooks feels like a generic retread. Only Iggy Pop sticks out in a wonderful scene-chewing performance.
Only Iggy Pop sticks out in a wonderful scene-chewing performance.
If the soundtrack is a few steps below The Crow’s iconic 90s compilation, it’s still a good slice of the decade’s grunge and alternative rock scene. With tracks from Hole, White Zombie, Toadies, Deftones, Korn, Filter, and Bush, City of Angel’s soundtrack is less eclectic but still bleak and hard-hitting. Where The Crow City of Angels missteps is how it uses this music throughout movie. Like Pope’s jarring music video style of editing, the movie randomly strings one song after another that reinforces the feel of a 90 minute-MTV video. As a result, the soundtrack distracts more than it adds to or creates atmosphere.
The Crow City of Angels Beyond Redemption
Regardless of the problems that plagued its production, The Crow City of Angels is a disjointed mess. Though its visual design re-captures the hellish urban nightmare of the original, City of Angels lacks any of The Crow’s pathos. Whether it’s the miscasting, frenetic editing, or incomprehensible storytelling, The Crow City of Angels represents a steep decline. Despite the poor reception that greeted it, Dimension Films greenlit two additional sequels with even further declining returns.