November 21, 2016

The Crow: Wicked Prayer

In The Crow: Wicked Prayer, John Connor comes back from the dead as the world's lamest mime in an attempt to stop Angel from having sex with Tara "New-FOUND-land" Reid in order to become Satan, while Dennis Hopper speaks in offensive gangsta patois in his most embarrassing performance of the last five minutes.

Now the original Crow really wasn't that good. I'll pause for a moment while all the goths in the audience immediately cut themselves in rage. (That's why I don't mind insulting goths. They'll hurt themselves instead of me.) Okay, now calm down, turn down the Robert Smith record, and listen to your old pal Carl Eusebius while contemplating the meaninglessness of it all as you crawl in your skin or whatever. The Crow was carried past its weak script and threadbare characters by a charismatic lead. It's got great visuals, fine performances by genre veterans Winston Zeddemore, Kurn, and Luther, and an effective pop soundtrack for its time. It's about a gang of criminals that murder Bruce Lee's Son and his girlfriend. Lee Jr. is so badass that he is resurrected a year later by the titular avian to bring the pain to those responsible. (Girlfriend, despite being raped and dying more slowly and painfully than Lee Jr., lacks the requisite penis necessary for being spectrally reanimated by a bird.) Not complicated or deep, but artistically shot and skillfully done, the film was anchored by an intense if not especially accomplished central performance. All in all, not a bad way to spend 100 minutes.

And Bai Ling doesn't even have to take her clothes off.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer is the third (yes, third) sequel to a film that died along with its star. Lacking any identity of its own, it alternately shamelessly apes the original film and totally undercuts it. Wisely, the filmmakers elected to steal the weakest elements of the original while jettisoning all the artistry and charisma that made it work. So the movie takes place in the American southwest instead of an unnamed Rust Belt city where it's constantly night and almost always raining. (Why yes, the original Crow was directed by Alex Proyas. How did you know?) That's right, a revenant dressed entirely in black and wearing white face-paint is wandering around the goddamn desert in the full light of day. Oh, and instead of Bruce Lee's Son, they got the charisma-free John Connor, who somehow became a worse actor as he grew up. I'm beginning to doubt that he's going to save us from the machine overlords.

This movie does not have fine performances. Instead, it has Bunny Lebowski showing everyone that she's just as terrible playing a brain-dead hillbilly slut as she was playing a brilliant archeologist, and also that she's not anywhere near as weirdly exotic and sexy as Bai Ling. When you make a clothed Bai Ling's acting look good by comparison, you need to re-think your career choice. It also has Angel doing the worst over-the-top Jack Nicholson impersonation this side of Christian Slater. I guess the default setting for your typical bad actor who's getting no direction and playing a character with no backstory, motivation, or recognizably human emotion is to "do Jack", when what they really oughtta do is to do Cage.

The plot of Wicked Prayer is...well, it's the same as the plot of The Crow, really, only dumber and immensely moar confusing. We start with Angel breaking out of his prison chain gang. In his quest to become Satan (incidentally, the career my guidance counselor suggested for me in high school), Angel gets his old gang together: Bunny Lebowski, Tank, Washed-Up MMA Champion, and That Guy I've Seen Somewhere. Being the worst Satanists ever, they capture a Catholic priest and douse him with gasoline and then just leave, without telling him his mother sucks cocks in Hell or anything. They go to the podunk town that John Connor and his hot Quebecois girlfriend are just about to leave on account of some Indian-white miner tension that never has any impact on the events to come. The gang gets one look at JC's godawful hairstyle and hangs both him and his French-Canadian squeeze, but not before Bunny cuts out the latter's (obviously fake plastic) eyeballs and sticks them into her own noggin. (Needless to say, the movie can't afford a shot of Bunny putting these clearly bogus orbs into her face, so you'll just have to trust the movie that this happens.) So now she can see the future, or the past, or something, and yes, Bunny Lebowski has the creepy witch/villain's girlfriend role that Bai Ling had in the original, though they drop the whole incest angle because, hey, that was bizarre and memorable and we'll have none of that in this movie, thank you very much. JC tries in vain to emote impotent rage and crushing sadness after Bunny stabs his Quebecois Indian girlfriend, and he's so bad at it that Angel kills him.

After Tank and W-UMMAC colossally fail at their simple task of "take the corpses into the desert and burn them", JC comes back to life, this time without waiting 3 days. After dragging his girlfriend's corpse back to her bed, he's horrified at his reflection (even though he was hanged so he doesn't even have a mark on his face) and tries to shoot himself, to find that he's now an indestructible zombie. So of course he paints his face in a terrible imitation of Bruce Lee's Son.

Now I know what you're thinking: Did he fire six shots, or only five? I mean, you're thinking, "Gee Carl Eusebius, you sexy beast you, this sure sounds an awful lot like a shitty rehash of the original." And you'd be right, of course. I am damn sexy. But now the movie introduces its original elements, which are even more terrible than its rip-offs. JC, you see, doesn't wanna be a warrior. He hates his powers, doesn't seem to desire revenge, and spends much of the movie whining about being brought back to life. "I'm afraid of what I've become." Uh...why? We're 45 minutes into the film's expansive 99- minute running time, and you've done jack shit! What exactly have you become? At one point he even says, "I wanna die." What the fuck kind of undead avenger is this guy? I kept waiting for the Crow to take its power back. Caw! God, what a pussy! Caw! Go back to the grave, shitnugget! Caw!

Finally, almost halfway through the film, JC confronts Guy I've Seen Somewhere, who understandably is less than intimidated by JC's bad make-up and petulant-teenager glare. When Bruce Lee's Son looked at his killers before he brought the pain, he was genuinely disturbing. The rage was seething and intense, but also cold and distant, as if the horrors that awaited these men were inevitable. John Connor looks like Mom just told him he can't go out on Friday night. I can't stress enough how terrible JC is in this movie. The film never really had a chance to work, but he absolutely torpedoes it with Costnerian finesse, alternately wildly overacting and grumbling out his lines like he's annoyed with the director for pointing the camera at him. He doesn't project anywhere near the emotion, charisma, and badassery necessary to pull off a man so hungry for vengeance that even death itself can't stop him. And he's done no favors by being a foot shorter and proportionally smaller than all of his enemies, especially Angel, which the director doesn't even attempt to hide. If you're going to be a short guy kicking everybody's ass on film, you either have to be the scrappy underdog who wins through guile rather than brute force, or Joe Pesci. Because otherwise, it looks ridiculous onscreen.

The movie then rushes to get through the rest of its "plot". JC somewhat implausibly defeats W-UMMAC in a martial arts fight after W-UMMAC starts bashing up a party with a baseball bat (along with the film's continuity, as the mask he's wearing alternately appears and disappears between shots). Bunny somehow knows the Crow is JC's weakness, despite none of the villains even knowing he was back from the grave until this scene, so they kill the Crow, making our whiny hero even more pathetic and ineffective and so Angel kicks his ass. Then they just leave again, because if they kill him while he's powerless, then the bad guys would win and the movie would be over. They reach the main Satanic temple run by Dennis Hopper, who marries the unholy couple and then gets stabbed by Bunny for reasons that are explained in a flashback that absolutely no one on Earth cares about at this point. Angel becomes Satan, but he has to boink Bunny to make it permanent, because otherwise the bad guys would win and the movie would be over. JC shows up, but he still sucks so Angel kicks his ass again, while a bunch of JC's Indian friends kill Tank in a scene so filled with boredom you'll glance over at the screen and sigh wearily. For his part, Angel, instead of taking Bunny right then and there in the Satanic temple and making himself permanently Satan--I mean, it's a Satanic temple, isn't it?--decides he and Bunny have to drive somewhere else entirely in order to do the deed. Because if they just did it right now the bad guys would--well, you get the picture.

JC, despite being crucified by SatAngel (he's playing "Jimmy Cuervo" in this movie, so the ham-handed Christ allegory is the movie's, not mine) is Only Resting, so he jumps in his stolen car and gives pursuit. (Things a reanimated spirit should never do: drive a car.) He catches up to Angel and gets his ass kicked yet again, because he's powerless without the Crow and Angel is Satan. (Ignore the fact that JC got pretty thrashed by W-UMMAC when he still had the Crow's power, at least until the script said it was time for him to win.) Then Danny Trejo joins the illustrious ranks of Hispanic Guys Playing American Indians Because Who'll Know the Difference, Right? when he leads an embarrassing "Indian" dance to bring the Crow back to life, even though the movie earlier claimed that the Crow's power comes from the Christian God. Okay, the original film's mythology was pretty vague, but it was pretty clearly not Judeo-Christian. We're a long way from the original's "Stop me if you've heard this one: Jesus Christ walks into a hotel. He hands the innkeeper three nails and asks, 'Can you put me up for the night?'" Okay, movie, just go back to aping the first film. Yes, you suck at that, too, but it's far better than your attempts at being original.

Blah blah, the Crow's back, JC starts no-selling Angel's attacks and kills him, and the Sun comes up, which I guess makes Bunny blind since now her plastic eyeballs don't work anymore(?). The End.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer is a shitty cash-in on the tragic death of a break-out movie star that showcases the worst of everyone involved in making it, including people that we know are capable of better and Tara Reid. Fuck this movie with seventeen crow beaks.