As we all know the original Crow movie turned out to be an iconic piece of 90’s cinema; which was also sadly down to the fact that Brandon Lee was killed during the filming. Despite the shocking death of Lee midway through the movies production the end result was still of a high quality. Even to this day it’s not overly obvious where Lee’s performance ends and a body double starts. For a newbie to the film I’d say its impossible to tell. So the notion of making a sequel was always going to be hard, dare I say sacrilege.
The Plot: Set in a comicbook version of Los Angeles Ashe (Vincent Pèrez) runs a small garage with his young son Danny. One night Danny accidentally stumbles across a gangland killing which leads to the both of them being executed by the gang. Meanwhile, an adult Sarah (Mia Kirshner) from the original movie, starts having bad dreams and visions about Ashe and his son. Somehow she has a supernatural connection with the dead and can feel their pain. She is visited by a crow which leads her to the spot where Ashe and his son were murdered. It’s at this moment that Ashe is resurrected. Sarah helps Ashe come to terms with what happened, eventually painting his face with the familiar markings she witnessed on Eric Draven. Ashe then begins his quest to exact revenge of the ones who murdered him and his son.
So yes this movie was a sequel set within the same universe as the original movie. Sarah is the only character to return and she is now an adult working as a tattooist. So basically, even though the plot is virtually identical to the first movie, it’s surrounding a new victim. So from that one can assume that this happens often in this universe, people coming back from the dead and putting things right. Indeed the movie does point this out at the end with the huge murder of crows sequence. It’s a safe but solid plot route, it makes sense without getting too silly. The question that springs to mind is, why don’t we see tonnes of crow-assisted people running around exacting revenge? Surely with all the murder in this universe it would happen all the time. I could also ask, what power or force is deciding who gets to come back? There would be tricky cases which aren’t so clear-cut, so what’s the criteria? But this could be seen as nit-picking.
The first thing you notice about this movie is the design aesthetic. Whereas the original movie was very dark and rainy with a lot of black and earthy colours; this second movie has a very greeny, yellowish colour palette, mostly green. This was to reflect the location of the story, Los Angeles on the coast. Hence everything has a more hazy, warm, sweaty, misty vibe running through it. Director Tim Pope certainly went a tad overboard with the mist and smog in my opinion. Almost every scene is thick with coloured mist which whilst adding a nice supernatural vibe, does also hinder being able to see things.
This world is of course a complete comicbook fantasy, even more so than the first movie. One could say ahead of its time because to give Pope credit, this movie does look like it’s been ripped straight from the pages of a graphic novel. Every frame is so outlandishly over the top with its swirling mist, bizarre colouring, and decaying cityscape. You can’t knock this movies visuals that’s for sure. The opening sequence is a brilliant panning shot over a large model cityscape of this otherworldly LA. The city itself is so unbelievably rundown and rotten it’s almost laughable really. I’m guessing the movie is set in the poorer part of the city but blimey! Every single inch of this urban sprawl is crawling with litter, filth, druggies, burnt-out cars, graffiti, broken glass, wrecked buildings etc…Its a living hell, but that is the point.
It’s also worth noting that along with the colour palette coordinating with the location, this movie also featured a lot of motorbikes which are more of a thing on the west coast. Where as in the original movie you saw a lot of cars (kinda) because it was set in Detroit, Pope and co deliberately used more motorbikes for the LA setting.
When it comes to the inhabitants of this city and their dwellings, things get even more off the wall. Let’s look at Sarah. She now looks like an extra from a Tim Burton movie with her pale complexion, red rings around her eyes, skinny build, and ripped attire. She lives in this apartment that looks more like a floor taken from a gothic castle, and it’s filthy. I understand she is supposed to be poor and moves around a lot but Jesus Christ! The windows are covered with a thick layer of dirt and the floor is dirty bare wooden floorboards! Interestingly, Sarah owns a white cat, the same cat from the first movie. She also still owns the sad clown mask from the first movie, and she wears Shelley’s wedding ring.
Moving on to the main antagonist Judah (Richard Brooks). Now this guy lives in an abandoned church which he has seemingly converted into a BDSM dungeon complete with his own collection of latex bound female slaves (rawr!!). Not only that but he also has his own personal witch or sorceress or prophet (?) that knows all about supernatural stuff including the crow and its powers. Judah a cultist, is a self-declared sadist and dresses in a Kimono type thing on his lower half and is topless on top. He seemingly spends his time brooding and watching his female slaves perform BDSM rituals.
Judah’s vicious gang contains just four members. All of whom are visually excessive for the sake of being excessive. It’s like Pope and co couldn’t really decide so they just threw everything at the wall. The leader of the gang is Curve (Iggy Pop) who dresses like an extra from Gun N’ Roses. Iggy is most definitely the best casting here because this guy suits this environment so perfectly both visually and verbally. He’s not the best actor but he does enough to sell it. Nemo (Thomas Jane) was a strange one that I haven’t figured out yet. He essentially dresses like a glam rock star complete with a dodgy wig, codpiece, and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ style eyelash makeup; but I’m thinking he could be a transvestite also (?).
Then you have Spider Monkey (Vincent Castellanos) who really does look like a combination of ideas all thrown together simply to make the most outrageous looking baddie ever. Again this guy seems to have a very effeminate vibe about him with his girlish screaming, rock chick hairdo, and of course tight attire. And lastly there is Kali (Thuy Trang), the slinky sexy token female villain who just happens to be south east Asian which I found really weak because it just seemed like Pope was copying the original movie (Bai Ling as Myca). All of these villains don’t really get much time to shine and we never really get a sense of who they are. They all feel like background characters just waiting to be inevitably killed off violently by Ashe.
Swinging back to our protagonist Ashe, I found the casting of Pèrez an odd one. Here was a man with a slight accent (which isn’t expanded on) and a clear receding hairline. Now I’m not having a go at his hair or accent, but he never really looked the part to me. He looked too old, his hair was clearly straightened, he had a large forehead due to the receding, he didn’t really look in shape, and mainly his acting was just off. Sure there are moments when he sells it with a maniacal grin or his face is overcast with shadow, but there are so many scenes which were clearly meant to epic moments of action or emotion and Pèrez just doesn’t sell it. I’m not saying the film required a young sexy ripped male, I just didn’t see Pèrez as the right choice.
As the film chugs along its also evident how silly bits of it truly are. Sarah paints Ashe’s face with his dead son’s kiddie paints. Surely that would just rub or wash off within 30 minutes, yet it stays there for the entire runtime. Ashe wears similar attire to Eric in the first movie including another full length long black trenchcoat. When Ashe goes off to find the first gang member, it takes all of about five minutes of motorbike riding from his old garage to get to his destination! Yeah I know it’s probably supposed to be longer but that’s how it comes across. Ashe kills Spider Monkey by throwing a lit match on some flammable liquid, and this somehow causes the entire building to violently explode.
Nemo gets killed in a seedy porn store which has a peeping booth. But my one and only question here is, why would anyone pay money to sit behind a glass booth and jerk-off while a girl strips? Surely a bloke like this would go to a prostitute. And all these baddies never seem to learn throughout this movie that guns and knives can’t hurt or kill Ashe. Kali even hangs around for Ashe at one point to try and kill him…with a knife, ugh! What follows is a really bad and obvious ‘martial arts’ fight between two actors who clearly don’t know any martial arts.
Its also around the midway point that you’ll realise there are apparently no cops in this entire city. Yes OK as I’ve already said this could well be the seedy part of town and there could well be less cops. Or the cops have been paid off by Judah. But either way, the fact you never see or hear any cops or sirens is just silly really.
The finale was another part of this movie that never really felt satisfying or well explained. Judah kills the crow (after he is instructed to by his very handy witch/prophet slave, what happened to her??) and takes Ashe’s powers of the crow. So Ashe becomes mortal again? Does this mean Ashe could walk off and remain alive? Does this mean Ashe dies twice in the end? Does that mean Judah is the living dead now?
In the original movie Eric transfers all the pain and suffering his girlfriend suffered onto Top Dollar. Well here Ashe kinda does the same thing to Judah, I think. Ashe calls on a large murder of crows (all carrying the pain of dead souls) to ‘take’ Judah. I’m not really sure what happens next, the crows fly through Judah and take his soul piece by piece? The crows eat Judah piece by piece? The crows merely suck him into the afterlife? I dunno. Does Judah’s newfound power not have any sway here? And does the power of crow revert back to Ashe straight away making him dead again?
This movie never really got much praise when it was released and was always seen as a poor follow up to the original. And to be honest it is a poor follow up, but it’s not as bad as its made out to be. There are some really good touches here, some great visuals (albeit a bit MTV music video-esque at times), decent ideas, and another solid soundtrack which is right up there with the original in my opinion. Yes OK Pope does rely a bit too much on greenscreen and superimposition here and there, some of which is horrendous, but at least they stuck with practical effects for the most part.
The setting of LA does add an interesting fresh angle especially with the inclusion of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival at the end. There is a lot of religious iconography throughout the movie (some Mexican) which also adds to the supernatural element nicely. It’s not top heavy with these religious themes, but in a more traditional graphic novel kinda way with stark striking imagery and motifs.
It’s definitely an odd movie with various clashing themes I can’t deny. There’s traditional biker gangs, tattoo parlours, and squalid graffiti-ridden urban areas. Various religious motifs, supernatural
prophets, the predictable abandoned church setting, and a traditional national holiday. And then there’s a heavy BDSM theme throughout complete with fetish club and hot wax torture sequence! A little insight into Tim Pope’s personal preferences perhaps?
Yes this movie is way more graphic and violent than the first and yes this movie follows the original almost beat for beat, scene for scene. But on a visual standpoint, this movie is undeniably excellent and showcases some highly stylish visual sequences (backed up with some thumping tunes). Upon reflection I’d say this is a solid gothic action movie. Obviously not as good as the first but still an engaging ride which should just about please fans of the franchise or people into this type of genre (it would probably be far better than any modern remake).