Monday, May 16, 2011

Blu-ray Review: The Crow - City of Angels (1996)


LABEL: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

DURATION: 86 mins
VIDEO: 1080p 16:9 1.78:1 Widescreen
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
CAST: Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks, Iggy Pop. Vincent Perez
TAGLINE: There will be another.

SYNOPSIS:  After a brutal attack by an evil drug cartel, the murder victim (Perez) is brought back to life by a mysterious crow. With the help of a beautiful woman named Sarah (Kirshner), he exacts revenge on his killers one by one…only to realize his enemy, the lethal Judah, has discovered the one weakness that can destroy him forever.

THE FILM: When it was announced early this year that Echo Bridge Entertainment would begin distributing Miramax titles I was intrigued by the handful of titles announced which included several sequels to popular genre film franchises including HELLRASIER, HALLOWEEN, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS (1996).

The sequel to THE CROW (1994) was directed by a first-time feature director Tim Pope who had caught the attention of the Weinstein's following a productive music video career. Sure, there are a number of music video director's who went on to prominent film careers, David Fincher being a great example, but this was not to be for Mr. Pope who immediately returned to music videos never again to return to the cinema. There's a reason for this.

First, let's look at the the story. It's a retread of the first film if ever there was one. A victim wrongfully murdered returns from the grave to reap his revenge. This time around it's the mechanic Ashe (Vincent Perez) and his young son Danny (Eric Acosta) who witness the murder of a drug dealer in an alley. They're tied-up, shot and dumped in the river. Meanwhile a young woman Sarah (Mia Kirshner) has nightmare of the murder and paints gothy images of death and resurrection. After following a large crow to the harbor she witnesses the resurrection of Ashe whom erupts from his watery grave and then sets about exacting revenge on those responsible for their deaths.  

I'm reviewing this not having seen the original film for at least 15 years but that's pretty much what happened in THE CROW (1994) if I'm not mistaken. The film is stylish and visually is a pretty pleasing to be fair but the script is just so damn redundant that you really get a strong sense of deja vu throughout the entire film. The cast is pretty terrible, too. Sure, I get a kick outta punk rocker Iggy Pop's portrayal of the gang leader Curve, that's good stuff but a movie it does not make. There's also a tasty appearance from a nearly unrecognizable Thomas Jayne as the pervy Nemo but on the other end of the spectrum the drug kingpin of the gang Judah Earl (Richard Brooks) was just way too over the top and that's second only to Vincent Perez's awful portrayal of The Crow following the tragic death of Brandon Lee. Perez is a pretty piss poor substitute for Brandon Lee and let's me fair here, Lee wasn't all that gifted an actor either but he The Crow suited him well. The Weinstein's never ones to shy away from a quick buck immediately put this on the fast track to capitalize on that films success and it shows on nearly every level.

What's to like? The film looks quite good, the set design and effects are damn decent, Iggy Pop as the film's bad ass is a blast but everything else is weak sauce right down to the lame mid-90's alterna-crap soundtrack. The film screams sub par sequel money grab from the get-go. If you can ignore the lazy scripting, redundant story arc and cartoonish acting grab yourself a bag of popcorn, shut of the brain, stuff your face and enjoy.

BLU-RAY: This marks the blu-ray debut of THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS (1996) with a AVC MPEG-4 encoded anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer in 1080i (not 1080p as the box suggests). The film's original aspect is 1.85:1 and it seems to have been reframed. It's not a huge difference in image but really any reframing other than the intended aspect ratio is wrong in my opinion. The quality of the image seemed to fluctuate quite a bit throughout with inconsistent black levels and fine detail that was quite uneven, at times it was difficult to tell this was a blu-ray. Likewise the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo soundtrack appears to be a 2.0 mix down of the original 5.1 mix. Despite my dislike for the alterna-crap soundtrack I think a 5.1 mix would have benefited this gothy action flick with all it's rampant gun play and explosions but as it stand the 2.0 is adequate though not ideal. This is a pretty sorry presentation for fans of the film who may be upgrading from the Miramax Collector's Edition DVD which was presented in 1.85:1 with a 5.1 audio options.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Nothing to crow about, that's right I said it. There's not even a decent start-up menu let alone a selection of special features. I thought we might see the Miramax Collector's Edition DVD special features ported over which included a commentary and several featurettes but apparently special features are not as easily resurrected as The Crow films. 

VERDICT: When one speaks of unnecessary sequels THE CROW - CITY OF ANGELS is a film that comes to mind rather quickly. It's an uninspired  cash-grab pure n' simple no doubt about it. Definitely a franchise that could have been left at one and done with THE CROW. On top of that Echo Bridge have given the film a lacklustre release presenting the film in the wrong aspect ratio with a mixed-down audio track with no bonus content. I'm down for some Miramax back catalogue titles at bargain prices but not if this is the quality we'll be seeing with future releases, truly this feels like a budget-dump. If you own the previous Miramax Collector's Edition I can't recommend an upgrade.  2.5 outta 5