"The Crow: City of Angels" is nothing to caw about.
Almost a remake rather than a sequel, it's another highly stylized but primitive story of a dead man's revenge on his killers against the backdrop of a city imagined by someone who's been to too many heavy metal concerts.
This is the world according to Metallica, a vapor-befogged, litter-befouled landscape of post-industrial devastation where everyone looks like Keith Richards after an encounter with an ill-tempered Avon Lady, including Iggy Pop.
Pop is one of a mob of drug droogs who, under the guidance of a nasty piece of work called Juda (Richard Brooks), has executed a motorcycle mechanic and his little boy, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Crow, that avatar of lost souls, flutes down from heaven and plucks this sad sack out of the the drink, also evidently teaching him instant karate and close-quarter battle skills.
A friendly tattoo artist paints his face chalk-white, except for little squiggly black lines to set off his eyes. Thus outfitted, he arranges nasty, ironic deaths for those who arranged his.
Of course, plot is not what "The Crow" could really be said to be about. It's about mood, about state of mind. Essentially it's a dream projection of tortured teen angst, in which the world is a dark slum that really stinks, man, really stinks.
When you tell your kid he can't go to a party because there aren't going to be any parents there, this is the fantasy zone into which he retreats. It's a grunge projection of the testosterone-fueled nihilism that takes its extreme form as devil worship but the more common form as torpor: lying on the couch in front of MTV while nursing a terminal case of lethargy.
Still, as uninteresting as all this is intellectually, it must be said that director Tim Pope brings a great deal of visual power to the piece. Gee, could he be a music video director? I'm going to guess that yes, he is, before I check the press notes. Why, gosh, I was right! I must be really smart! He did vids for Soft Cell, David Bowie, Psychedelic Furs and Neil Young, and particularly the Cure (32 of 'em!). Folks, that's your professional movie critic in action.
It may be sepia and brimstone, but it's crudely effective. I liked particularly a scene where the ghostly Ashe (Vincent Perez) hurtles through the dark on a real neat chopper while behind him, for no logical reason, the trees burst into flame, while the optically matted crow of the title accompanies him and the rock soundtrack is loud enough to obliterate the bombardment of Normandy.
On the other hand, Pope is a visualist, not a dramatist: The story, what whiff of it can be detected, never grips, and the action sequences aren't particularly dynamic. Is Perez better or worse than the late Brandon Lee, who originated the role and died during the making of the first film?
Well, it's hard to tell, and it's almost an irrelevant question. His Ashe isn't a character, he's a posture, a conceit: He has no psychology, no real identity. He's just vengeance personified. He's impressive in the way, say, a Claymore Mine is, or an M-16.
If "The Crow" were a tattoo or a van painting, you'd have to say sick, but well thought out. But as a movie, it's got more style than sense.
'The Crow: City of Angels'
Starring Vincent Perez
Directed by Timothy Pope
Released by Miramax/Dimension
Rated R (extreme violence and sexuality) 1/2
Pub Date: 8/31/96