The Crow 2: City of Angels (1996) Movie Review

The second “Crow” film was controversial even before it was released, due to a massive re-editing by the film studio against the will of the writer and director. The result is a visually impressive film that is quite well acted and still entertaining, but adds nothing new to the Crow mythos. While Miramax/Dimensions films succeeded in re-cutting the film to be almost a remake of the original, they couldn’t destroy the glimmers of originality that remained.

As in the first film, the mysterious Crow resurrects a wrongfully murdered man to seek revenge on his killers. In this case, that man is Ashe Corven (Vincent Perez), a devoted single father who is brutally gunned down and drowned along with his young son after witnessing a murder by a bloodthirsty gang. Ashe is soon drawn to Sarah (Mia Kirshner, “Exotica”), the now-grown young girl from the original film, who explains the purpose of his return. One by one, Ashe hunts down the unredeemable evil gang members in order to avenge the death of his beloved boy. But unbeknownst to him, his true enemy is the psychotic Judah (Richard Brooks), a drug lord who rules the city. Judah has also learned of the Crow, and seeks to steal Ashe’s power and become the evil anti-Crow. The two are placed on a collision course, with the final battle on the streets of Los Angeles during the macabre Day of the Dead celebration.

There will no doubt be comparisons between actor Vincent Perez (“Talk of Angels”) and Brandon Lee (“Rapid Fire”) over their respective portrayals of the title character; but while Lee will always be the ultimate Crow, Perez does an excellent job as well. He is frequently mesmerizing, especially when his emotions erupt into a torrent of grief and rage that culminate in a maniacal fury. And yet he also gives the character a tender and compassionate side; this is especially seen in his moments with Sarah, whom he seems to want to love but knows that because of what he has become, they can never be truly together.

The villains are essentially one dimensional characters, existing to purely do evil and meet violent ends for their crimes. Iggy Pop (“Tank Girl”) and Thomas Jane (“61”) play their roles quite well, but the limited character development makes them little more than cannon fodder for the Crow. Richard Brooks (“Law and Order”) is also exceptional as Judah, the drug lord who almost convinces the audience he might just be evil enough to defeat Ashe.

Music video director Tim Pope presents a visually attractive film, with its sodium lit scenes and shadowy undercurrents. It’s difficult to take your eyes off this film; some of the visuals are quite stunning and the cinematography frequently borders on the brilliant. The main problem with the film is that despite its good looks, it’s all been done before. But scribe David Goyer (“Blade”) isn’t to blame for the lack of originality in the film, as should be evident by some of the fine work he has done since this movie.

The true villains of this effort is not Judah’s gang, but rather Miramax/Dimensions Films. After screening the sequel, they radically re-cut the film in order to make it more like its predecessor. Many scenes were eliminated, restructured, changed in order, and the ending was entirely altered to be more upbeat. For those who want to experience the film in its original form, track down a copy of the novelization by Chet Williamson and see how brilliantly imaginative this sequel could have been.

Viewers be warned: the “director’s cut” available on home video is anything but, since it merely restores several minutes of footage cut from the theatrical version. The film’s restructured plot is essentially the same as seen in theaters. Until the true version is the film is released, audiences can contend themselves with a stylish remake in its faux “director’s cut” format. While this sequel has nothing new to contribute to the series, it is still a gorgeous looking film with a stellar lead performance. It will never be as good as the original, but it’s still an enjoyable exercise in style over hampered substance.

Tim Pope (director) / James O’Barr (comic book), David S. Goyer (screenplay)
CAST: Vincent Perez …. Ashe Corven
Mia Kirshner …. Sarah
Richard Brooks …. Judah
Iggy Pop …. Curve
Thomas Jane …. Nemo

Buy The Crow 2: City of Angels on DVD