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Sunday, 4 November 2018

Retro Review: The Crow (1994)

The Crow
Cast: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling
Genre: Supernatural Comic Book Film
U.S Box Office Gross: over $50 million 

Plot: A man brutally murdered comes back to life as an undead avenger of his and his fiancee's murder

'Flies High In A Way, If Only It Went Even Darker'

The Crow is a fantasy based superhero comic book flick that has horror undertones which was directed by Australian music video director, Alex Proyas and stars the late Brandon Lee. The film is remembered for the tragic death of Lee, who was accidentally killed on the set of The Crow in a stunt that went disastrously wrong and as far as his short-lived career goes, this is still his best ever film. Despite this, it is not an outright incredible movie, for me personally. 

Based on James O'Barr's 1980's strip, which was inspired by the devastating loss of his fiance at the hands of a drunk driver, Eric Draven and his girlfriend, Ellie are brutally murdered and left for dead on the night of Halloween by a group of sadistic thugs. In a flashback scene, Ellie is raped and a year on, Draven is reborn as a dark angel who rises from the ashes to seek his vengeance with a gang of thugs led by Top Dollar, who ended his and his bride-to-be's lives on the eve of their wedding.  

The Crow is a great Brandon Lee film, but as an action-horror, it doesn't quite hit all the right notes. The story felt sluggish and, at times, it just didn't have more moments that exploded onscreen. There are no subplots, plot twists, suspense that spring out of nowhere and potentially, it should have gone a little deeper and darker to give the film some energy. For a revenge movie, there are no thrills, almost a lack of intensity, as well as a genuine rivalry, felt between Eric and Top Dollar. 

Lee, himself, hadn't had an established career up until this point, in B-movie actioners with the disappointing Showdown In Little Tokyo and slightly underwhelming, though still sufficient, Rapid Fire, but here, he certainly imposes himself all too well and the efficient script boosted his range and performance as an actor. As Eric Draven and in preparation for the role, Lee lost 20 lbs in weight and he had to ditch the martial arts in favour of a more performance-based turn and where more emphasis was placed on his acting. Which worked to a tee. In The Crow, Lee makes that character his very own, though some may argue his performance was only as good as the material itself. He also knew that Draven could be his breakthrough and alas, the original first choice for the role was Christian Slater. The movie was eventually completed with stunt doubles and special effects. 

The Crow has a very grungey, dirty, dark gothic aesthetic - imagine Tim Burton's Batman but mixed in with goth, rock and stylishly too, it's a combination that transcends well onscreen. It still remains one of the most obscure comic book movies of all-time, even with the positive reviews and was a brief commercial success and it has gained a cult following for being ''violent'' and its angsty neo-gothic style. Although one would argue that box office success had more to do with Brandon Lee's death, rather than for any other reason, though as a film itself, it's still a good effort, somewhat. 

Performances overall are ok at best, but the actors had to make do with the sub-standard and underdeveloped material, most of which are forgettable and with that, it just wasn't as strong as I'd have expected. Whilst the action is few, but nothing groundbreaking, spectacular or worthwhile to brag about and as bleak as it is at times, the film felt also too lightweight as well. 

Final Verdict:

The Crow is the alternate Tim Burton Batman knock-off and whilst Lee delivers, the gothic/rockstar angle was too melodramatic and not forceful enough to make an emphatic impact. If it wasn't for Brandon Lee and the manner of his turn, much like with the dire Crow sequel follow-ups that existed minus Lee, this would be a below mediocre movie. As a swansong to Brandon Lee's career and life, there is no doubting he still went out on a high.

It's still good as a whole, as I said, but really The Crow should have blown me away. 


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