Film review: Crow: City of Angels, The

Published: Saturday, Sept. 7 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

The original "Crow" movie was a trifling, but somewhat effective, gothic update on the revenge movie motif. Its sequel, however, is a bird of an extremely different feather — of the turkey variety, you might say.

Lacking the first film's two charismatic leads — the late Brandon Lee, who was accidentally killed during its shooting, and Michael Wincott, who played the scene-stealing villain — "The Crow: City of Angels" substitutes brutal violence and gore for character development, probably hoping audi-ences won't notice what a confusing nightmare this whole mess really is.

Replacing Lee in the title role is Vincent Perez, a decent character actor from "Queen Margot," who just doesn't have the physical flair required for the part. Worse still, he reads his corny death quips in a reedy lisp that sounds more like Christopher Lambert from the "Highlander" movies than it recalls Lee.

Perez plays Ashe, a mechanic killed by the henchmen of Judah Earl (Richard Brooks), the tyrannical, death-dealing druglord of futuristic Los Angeles. But wouldn't you know, one of those pesky crows directs Ashe's soul back to his body, to seek vengeance on his murderers rather than passing on to the other side.

Ashe, who has taken the physical appearance (white face makeup and black eyeliner and lipstick) of his predecessor, also has some sort of psychic tie with Sarah (Mia Kirschner), a tattoo artist who was saved by the original Crow (remember the little girl from the first film?).

After dispatching Earl's crew of baddies (including Iggy Pop and Thuy Trang from the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers"), Ashe finally goes looking for Earl, who has kidnapped Sarah and slain Ashe's spiritual adviser (the bird that directs him toward his killers). Consequently, Ashe has to face the superpowered bad guy without his occult edge.

If the plot sounds like little more than warmed-up leftovers from the original, it is. David Goyer's muddled and cliche-ridden screenplay (which includes a puzzling "what the?" ending) is matched in wretchedness only by Tim Pope's irritating music-video direction.

Pope, who "graduated" from music videos, has no idea how to direct an action scene, or a dramatic one, for that matter. Many scenes drag on, seemingly to showcase the film's soon-to-be hit sound-track.

He also makes the huge mistake of letting his actors play things fast and loose. Consequently, on top of Perez's hilarious cheesy performance, you've got Iggy Pop aping Jack Nicholson and Brooks mocking Ving Rhames. In fact, about the only performer not imitating another one is Kirschner, who's just wooden.

This "Crow's" production values aren't even as good as the original's, either. Twenty-first century L.A. should probably look like the cities from "Blade Runner," but the models are so phony they bring to mind that "it's just a model" line from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

As stated before, "The Crow: City of Angels" features excruciatingly bloody and gory violence that is painful to watch. It more than earns its R rating from the gruesome mayhem, as well as profanity, nudity, sex, drug use and vulgarity.