Occasionally a film comes along that makes me wish we didn’t use a rating system for our reviews because based on the number of mugs I have to give The Crow: Wicked Prayer, no doubt people will think it’s not worth a look. However, they would be missing out on a lot of good parts that, unfortunately, don’t add up to much of a whole. Despite that fact, I wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of the series, fans of Edward Furlong and/or David Boreanaz, and those of you who can forgive heavy-handed direction and bad dialogue in exchange for an interesting storyline and a stylish look that ranks this installment way above Salvation and at about the same level as or a little higher than City of Angels.
It’s pretty much a given that nothing will ever top the original Crow and Brandon Lee left some huge shoes to fill, but Furlong gives it a valiant effort. He plays Jimmy Cuervo, an ex-con in love with Lily, a lovely Native American shaman type who lives with her family on the Raven Aztec reservation. The tribe is split down the middle over the closure of a mine, which provides income to many of them, in order to make way for a new casino. The film opens by introducing us to three men with revenge on their minds, and with names like Pestilence, Famine, and War, you can be sure that there’s no room for negotiation. They soon hook up with chain-gang escapee Luc Crash (aka Death) and his sharp-shooting sweetie Lola. Crash (portrayed to over-the-top perfection by Boreanaz) is a wise-cracking satanic cult leader who has a history with Jimmy that’s never quite fleshed out. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (as our rag-tag gang likes to call themselves) quickly kill our two lovebirds – on the very night that Jimmy was going to ask Lily to marry him despite her family’s objections – as part of some sort of ritual that will allow Crash to become the devil incarnate. Lola (Tara Reid in a surprisingly not terrible performance) cuts out Lily’s eyes so that she can “see” things to help Crash in his endeavor, and Crash pulls out Jimmy’s heart. Then they’re off in search of a virgin to sacrifice so that they can finish the ceremony and ensure Crash’s conversion to full demonhood.
Soon after Crash’s cohorts dispose of the bodies, Jimmy awakens to find himself turned into The Crow. He goes through a typical “Crow transformation” with face paint and the usual wardrobe accessories and then sets off to find Crash and the rest of his team to avenge his and Lily’s murders. As one would expect, death, mayhem, and the burning silhouette of a crow in the dirt ensue. As do a plethora of flashbacks that I’m sure were meant to fill in the audience on Jimmy’s and Crash’s back stories, but mostly they just look cool without adding much substance to the film. Listening to the director’s commentary does help sort things out a bit, but the incoherency of the plot is a major downfall of Wicked Prayer that its three credited writers certainly should have been able to overcome.
On the positive side, I found the Indian reservation setting to be quite in keeping with the theme of the original Crow. It added a mystical, spiritual quality that was sadly lacking in the other sequels. Lily especially seemed to be tapped into this otherworldly element, and the actress portraying her did a fine job of expressing that aspect of the character. The spin of The Crow being not such a “good guy” before being reborn was a nice touch as well. It gave him a depth and complexity we haven’t really seen before in the series. Both Furlong and Boreanaz did excellent jobs of conveying their characters’ personalities and emotions – no small feat considering that director Mungia’s sole objective seemed to be to have his actors speak their lines as if they were making the most important and meaningful pronouncements they had ever made in their lives. Every line of dialogue was emphasized beyond belief – even if it was just a simple statement! It’s to the cast’s credit that they were able to eke out even a few moments of nuance and subtlety amidst all the forced and contrived “deepness” Mungia seemed to be going for.
Dave Ortiz also deserves a mention for the high quality of his debut performance as Lily’s brother. The winner of the worst actor award in the film is a tie, and as stated previously, amazingly enough Tara Reid isn’t one the recipients. No, it’s Dennis Hopper and Macy Gray, both of whom are horribly miscast and required to spout unbelievably bad dialogue. Thankfully, Macy is only onscreen for a few brief moments, but we’re subjected to Hopper’s El Nino – a jive-talking pimp/grand poobah of the cult – for far too long. If I heard him say “homey” one more time, I swear I was going to throw the DVD out the window. I still can’t believe that was the same guy who was so excellent and restrained in Land of the Dead. I guess it just goes to show how much effect poor direction can have on an otherwise talented actor. The film hits bottom when some members of the tribe, led by a shirtless Danny Trejo, do a beyond stereotypical pow-wow “dance” to heal the wounded crow. Honestly, is it impossible to make a Crow film without someone hurting the damn bird?
But, in spite of its shortcomings, Wicked Prayer really isn’t all bad. Furlong evoked some genuine feelings from me, and Boreanaz was a hoot to watch. It’s a very pretty film to look at (the Utah locations are terrific), the editing is noteworthy, and the score fits the overall mood perfectly. There’s a nice assortment of extras on the disc, most notably a 30-minute “making of” featurette that shows how much everyone involved in the film really cared about and wanted to be respectful of the Crow history – and how much fun they all had working together. It’s too bad more of that synergy didn’t show up in the finished product. No doubt the exceptionally short (23-day) shooting schedule and low budget played a large part in the outcome.
The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005)
(Dimension Home Video)
Directed by Lance Mungia
Starring Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Emmanuelle Chriqui
The Making of The Crow: Wicked Prayer
Black Moth Bar Storyboards
Margaritas and Conversation
2 out of 5