Ah, “The Crow” series. It started out so well, but has become so pathetic after just four installments, that it almost makes you feel pity for the poor souls with the bad luck to get involved in it. Each subsequent sequel has been worst than the previous, their scripts little more than carbon copies of the original. “The Crow: City of Angels” was the last entry to make it into theaters, back when there was still life in the franchise, but even so the sequel was nothing more than a pale imitation (script, plot, and even direction) of the Alex Proyas directed, Brandon Lee starring original. “The Crow: Salvation” was so bad, it will only be remembered for one thing: it co-starred a young Kirsten Dunst.
Which brings us to “The Crow: Wicked Prayer”, a movie that is so bad on so many levels that it makes my critique of “Salvation” seem unfair. “Wicked Prayer” stars ex-“T2” kid Edward Furlong as the improbably named Jimmy Cuervo, who along with his Indian girlfriend Lily (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Wrong Turn”) is murdered by escaped convict Luc Crash (David Boreanaz, late of the “Angel” TV series). Ol Crash and his posse, including gun-toting blondie Lola Byrne (Tara Reid), plans to resurrect demons or something supernatural like that. To this end, they’ve extracted lovely Lily’s eyes and poor Jimmy’s heart as part of some kind of ceremony or some such. It’s all very black magic-ish. At least as black magic-ish as it can get with Tara Reid chanting random “magic” spells.
The most unfortunate thing about “Wicked Prayer” is that it’s actually a serviceable drama in the early parts, when it just involved white trash Jimmy’s romance with Indian princess Lily, and the fact that Lily’s family doesn’t approve. Alas, once the lovebirds are knocked off and Jimmy resurrected, things go downhill from there. The main problem is that this new Crow is as fearsome as, well, co-star Tara Reid playing a gun-toting badass. Unfortunately young Eddie Furlong, long removed from battling evil cyborgs from the future, makes for a poor Crow. It doesn’t help that Furlong’s idea of playing a vengeance-fueled zombie avenger is to constantly tilt to one side for some strange reason.
“Wicked Prayer” was directed by Lance Mungia, who made a name for himself with the low-budget “Six-String Samurai”, an action-packed martial arts film shot entirely on weekends, and was as nonsensical as action movies from the ’80s, of which it was patterned after. Coming off that film, it’s easy to see how Mungia could forget that this is supposed to be a dark and somber revenge tale, not some chop socky kung fu flick, which seems to be what Mungia is going for in-between scenes that he probably felt compelled to shoot as this is, after all, a “Crow” movie. Based off his work in “Wicked Prayer”, I’m not sure if ol Lance will ever work again on anything with a decent budget.
The other nitpick involves the bad guys, the supposed source of the Crow’s hatred and rage, who are barely bad enough to qualify as villains at all. Whenever they’re about to kill someone, these guys can’t decide if they’re cold-blooded killers or just poor schmucks in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s possible Mungia and his co-writers were attempting to make the bad guys seem slightly sympathetic, perhaps going under the misguided assumption that we want sympathetic villains in our “Crow” films. Um, no. It’s a little hard to get behind the whole, “Kill’em all and let God sort’em out” mentality when you can’t even be sure if the bad guys are all that bad.
For someone who made his bones choreographing wild action on a budget, Mungia shockingly disappoints with “Wicked Prayer”. How bad is Mungia’s grasp of movie direction? At one point, the Crow dispatches of a baddie with a baseball bat in a crowded dance hall, then sits down to have a long, boring chat with Crash and Tara Reid. Seriously. In that order. This, mind you, as “dance goers” mill about in the background in the aftermath of the Crow killing someone with a baseball bat. I kid you not. The rest of the film is just as poorly directed, and the action never comes close to matching (nay, meeting halfway) the action in “Six-String Samurai”. Hmm, I guess now we know who was really responsible for “Six-String’s” success as an action movie, don’t we? Where’s Jeffrey Falcon when you need him.
Nothing about “Wicked Prayer” works. Even its first reveal of Furlong as the Crow is barely serviceable, with not even one-tenth of the grand entrance of Brandon Lee climbing out of his grave in a rain-soaked night. Unfortunately the writers do manage to keep the most annoying constant of the “Crow” films — namely the bad guys’ uncanny ability (re: it’s in the script, stupid) to figure out that the Crow’s power is dependent on the crow that follows him around. This is probably one of the more contrived tropes of the “Crow” series, just below the “spreading fire miraculously forms a Crow shape” motif. Gee, it’s not like every superhero is doing it now.
Is it any wonder “Wicked Prayer” is scheduled for direct-to-video release? It’s a poor film in almost every respect, completely devoid of any of the mystique of the previous films (yes, even the atrocious “Salvation”), and the Crow has never looked more ordinary and unimpressive. Edward Furlong can’t play tough to save his life, and David Boreanaz, the film’s potential saving grace, has elected to crack wise throughout the film, turning what should have been a menacing character into an unfunny jokester. Of the supporting cast, only Yuji Okumoto, as the Japanese killer who likes to pretend he’s a cowboy, makes any sort of impression. And true to their misguided ways, Mungia and company kills the cowboy off way too early, thus assuring that the second half of “Wicked Prayer” will be entirely entertainment-free.
Lance Mungia (director) / Norman Partridge (novel), Lance Mungia, Jeff Most, Sean Hood (screenplay)
CAST: Edward Furlong …. Jimmy Cuervo/The Crow
David Boreanaz …. Luc Crash/Death
Tara Reid …. Lola Byrne
Dennis Hopper …. El Nino
Emmanuelle Chriqui …. Lily
Marcus Chong …. War
Tito Ortiz …. Famine
Yuji Okumoto …. Pestilence