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25 March, 2005

Review: 'The Crow: City Of Angels' (1996)

'The Crow' set the standard for dark, violent comic-book film adaptations in 1994 and rapidly became a cult classic, not least for giving Goths an action (anti-)hero.  The acting, at least of the leads, and atmospheric production style successfully carried a strong, if rather simplistic story, whilst subplots added humanity.  Even if only for the visual side, it's a 'must-see' film.

'The Crow: City Of Angels', though....

I rented it expecting a sequel, and it was billed as such, but beneath the specifics, this was essentially a remake of exactly the same story: a man is murdered alongside a loved one, then returns from the grave, kills his murderers one by one (the ritual element is lost in the second film), and has a final showdown with the murderers' more mystical boss. In the first film the man was Eric Draven, the loved one his fiancée; in the second, Ashe and his son. There is a linking element: in 'The Crow' Eric befriends a child, Sarah, who inherits his cat. In the follow-up, Sarah is an adult, and still has the cat. However, otherwise it could be a straight remake with weaker direction, worse acting and a visibly lower production budget. The IMDb reports that the original version of the film was somewhat different, but was recut by the studio to more closely resemble 'The Crow'; I'd say they went too far, and made a clone.

There's a certain caché in casting both Iggy Pop and Ian Dury, but it didn't really help. The former was just manic and could have been anyone (an actor mightn't have been a bad idea...), whilst the latter was underused. Dury's character had the potential to draw a little humanity out of the lead characters, in much the same way as the policeman did in 'The Crow' – a likeable 'real world' bystander dragged into an outlandish situation, and hence someone to whom the audience could relate.

Somehow, this reminded me of '9½ Weeks' in the sense that it tried that little bit too hard to be 'arty'. In places it felt like a music video, and I could dismissively say that the director, Tim Pope, is better known for such work, but that's no excuse. The director of 'The Crow', Alex Proyas, directed music videos too, before the success of 'The Crow' elevated him to projects such as 'Dark City' and 'I, Robot'.

I'd be mildly interested to hear the rationalisation of why this was made (apart from 'to make money'), and who thought it necessary to release a low-budget remake only two years after the original. I discovered something else at the IMDb: there's a third 'Crow' film, 'The Crow: Salvation', which, for some reason, went straight to video in 2000 and vanished without trace....

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