Wrong place, wrong time.
It probably would have been graceful to end the 'Crow' franchise at one and done, considering the fact that it cost its star his life. It probably would have helped give the film and character an untouchable aura of respect and remorse, one where fans could see how the breakthrough role in a young man's life ended up costing him everything. It just probably wouldn't have made as much money. Barely two years after the theatrical bow of 'The Crow,' 'The Crow: City of Angels' attempted to ride the name and success (and controversy) of the original.
It failed, miserably.
The story, which rings awful familiar to the one fans previously had seen, focuses on a wrongly slain man (Vincent Perez as Ashe Corven), who, along with his young son, were murdered by a gang of drug dealers for witnessing their misdeeds one night. Years later, the crow has granted him the chance to avenge his death, with the power of invulnerability on his side, as one by one he seeks to take down those responsible. This time, though, the fateful days fall right near the day of the dead (dia de los muertos), and the powerful ringleader of the drug operation, Judah Earl (Richard Brooks), and his portent seek to use the knowledge of the legend against his would be assassin.
'The Crow: City of Angels' is your prototypical sequel, capitalizing on the success of the original as fast as possible, reutilizing the same basic premise and narrative structure. The death of Lee doesn't affect the film, as the focus on yet another man bestowed a new lease on life and stranglehold on death allows the franchise to play like a series of one-offs, standalone stories that are only tied together by the same plot conceit: that darn bird...that darn bird that is poorly added to scenes, looking straight out of 'Birdemic'.
There's not much worth watching the second time around. Perez overacts to the point his character is less interesting than he is annoying, while supporting characters are all decidedly one dimensional. The villains? Cartoonish. Sure, it's always nice to see punker Iggy Pop and an unrecognizable Thomas Jane in the baddie ranks, but Judah Earl is a horrible, horrible lead bad guy. We don't give a bloody damn about him, and his entire story is just ridiculous. He wants the powers that Ashe now has. He knows how to get them. Hey, that's great. But does he really need to use a birdcage, suspended, that drops straight down on the bird? Isn't this magical bird at least smart enough to hear, sense, or see the cage directly above it, falling towards it?
This ill themed sequel also features a stretch even bigger than a stupid bird (sorry, in this one the bird is a dumb ass), as one man, who a group of drugged up thugs killed years ago, in makeup, is recognizable to each and every one of them. I mean, the way they act, you'd expect them to have killed dozens, if not hundreds of people, including other innocents, yet the sight of Ashe, in full Crow makeup, sends them all screaming for the hills? It's about as logical as exploding palm trees...oh...wait...
'The Crow: City of Angels' is a very poor film. Let's be frank. Those interested are mostly completists or such fans of the original that they put up with this subpar muck. Lacking the Alex Proyas directing flair, this film features Tim Pope, in his one and only film helming role. Apparently he didn't quite realize that, unlike music videos, films actually need characters, character development, plot, a twist or two, something to keep audiences interested, and, in the case of an action film, actually well thought out fight or escape sequences. There's none of that here. When the sound of Filter's Jurassitol is the highlight of a film experience, there's more than just something horribly wrong with the picture.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Echo Bridge's release of 'The Crow: City of Angels' is housed on a BD25 disc with no pre-menu content. The menu itself has only two tabs, a very slow acting, poorly coded scene selection, and a play button. Of course, there is a fairly important typo on the packaging itself. This release has an official May 3, 2011 street date, but has been released in Best Buy stores as of April 5, as a sort of early exclusive.
There are no other Blu-ray releases of this film, so the 'From Dusk Till Dawn' remedy doesn't work here...
The box art for 'The Crow: City of Angels' tells us that we're in store for a 1080p, 1.78:1 (from 1.85:1) framed visual tour de force. Only, not so much. Instead, the AVC MPEG-4 encode is rockin' the i, as in 1080i. Sloppy and lazy.
After being insulted by 'From Dusk Till Dawn', I had absolutely no expectations going into the second 'Crow' film. Heck, one of the few things I remembered about the film, aside from its horrific ending, was how hazy and grimy the film was. Correction, change that "was" to an "is." Get ready to be blown away by mind numbingly generic, lackluster video, folks!
The film has a noticeable haze in a number of sequences, which often runs slightly orange. This...seems right, yet also, quite wrong. From viewing any available resource (including samples of the film itself, as well as trailers) online, there appears to be an upped, overly heated aspect to this release. Skin tones just never feel right, contrast levels are always "off," unusual. Yes, the haze can obscure detail, but when the haze itself is obscured in its detail, as the video is often soft, we are left with obscured softness. It's not pretty, folks. Not one bit. There is an overall lack of fine detail damn near anywhere, as even closeups are less than impressive or sharp. There are less than a handful of actual sharp moments, and they are usually just quick flashes, like when the Ashe Crow runs away from Sarah's dwelling, brief little moments that are hardly satisfactory considering how they're like a rich gumdrop center of a piece of candy coated with three inches of stale, cracked, hardened gunk. If you like watching Blu-rays that go soft, dull, soft, average, dull, soft, sharp for five seconds, dull, duller, worse than DVD, borderline VHS, dull, dull, dull, then hey, Echo Bridge's release of 'The Crow: City of Angels' is right up your alley!
So...with all of the typos on these Echo Bridge releases, and the fact that sometimes they're in our favor (see: 'From Dusk Till Dawn' having 5.1 audio, not 2.0), it was only a matter of time before they got something right. Too bad it's the one thing that consumers didn't want to be accurate. 2.0. DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, yes, but still, 2.0 on a film that has been released with 5.1 in the past. Hell, the old DVD had not one, but two 5.1 options. How lame is that?!
So, pardon me if you will, but I want to get this out of the way early: Echo Bridge, the Crow isn't the only bringer of pain, as you continue to punish consumers with your substandard releases. 'The Crow: City of Angels' does not sound good. Not at all. Not even counting the fact that gun battles should have filled the room, as should have atmosphere and soundtrack elements, this mix fails at every chance it gets. The soundtrack (which I enjoy thoroughly, even if it doesn't measure up to the original) is none too powerful, and is pretty damn weak, to be honest. Separation is below average, with numerous sequences sounding like they were that extra step lower, down to 1.0. Dialogue and effects are often hollow, explosions lack a deep ballsy roar (and bass levels are pretty gosh darned high, so there's no good explanation for this!), and high pitched or frenetic moments sound, simply, pathetic. Throw in the constant feeling that you're watching a film with a lip synch issue (and to be fair, there were moments that were painfully obvious it was off, if even just barely), and you have a real winner, Echo Bridge. Thank you, so very much, for being so kind as to release this epic, format defining sound mix.
Of course not.
I can't say that I dislike 'The Crow: City of Angels.' Dislike isn't a strong enough word for the way I feel about this quick and dirty cash-in. With a horrible lead performance, boring script, awful effects, and moments so implausible they make a crow that resurrects people seem possible, this sequel is a nightmare. And what better way to present this nightmare than with Echo Bridge doing the dirty "slap it on a disc and call it a day" release strategy that doesn't care about the end result? No extras, no 5.1 audio, no 1080p picture, no good film. Why anyone would ever buy this release, other than to watch a catastrophe in action, is beyond me.