Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 13, 1994
DIRECTOR: Alex Proyas
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dariusz Wolski
WRITERS: David J. Schow, John Shirley
MUSIC: Graeme Revell
In 1994, director Alex Proyas made his name in a big way with the release of “The Crow”. The film is based on one of the best-selling independent black and white comics of all time. The graphic novel was written by James O’Barr in an attempt to deal with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. The history of the film also has a bit of darkness as well.
Probably the biggest known fact about the film is that eight weeks before shooting was complete, main actor Brandon Lee (the son of the late Bruce Lee) was accidentally shot by a dummy round on the set and died from his wound. The freak accident occurred on March 31, 1993.
After it was debated by the studio as to whether or not they should move forward with the film, they decided to go through with the rest of the production. The filmmakers used stunt-doubles and special-effects to finish photography. What followed was a movie that has gained a cult-following with today’s audiences.
The film opens with narration explaining that every once in a while when a crime is committed that is so heinous, a crow will bring the spirit of the victim back to life in order set things right. After this, it is discovered that Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancée, Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas), have been murdered. One year later, a mysterious crow descends onto Eric’s tombstone and he reawakens as a dark avenger.
He also discovers that he has superpowers that make him immortal as well as the ability to see the thoughts and memories of those he touches. His only weakness is the very crow that brought him back to life.
The first thing that is noticeable about the film is its tone. This is a very dark and gothic film and Proyas’ direction gives the film a unique visual style. Instead of using modern special-effects, he uses models and matte paintings along with other old-school effects. Not only does the graininess add to the overall tone, it gives the flick a certain comic book feel that helps remind audiences of the story’s origin and adds to the overall aesthetic of the movie.
Lee is perfect as the avenging Eric Draven. He does a good job of balancing the tortured aspect of his character while occasionally pulling off a little dark humor along the way. It would have been interesting to see where his career could have gone had tragedy been averted. The rest of the cast does a great job as well.
Eric has two allies that join him on his journey for revenge. Ernie Hudson plays Sgt. Albrecht, a cop that was on the scene when they discovered Eric and Shelly’s bodies. Over the past year, he has been taking care of Sarah (Rochelle Davis), a young street smart girl that was friends with the two lost lovers.
Beyond the supporting characters, the film has two major villains. The leader of the gang that killed Eric and his girlfriend is T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly). He is absolutely out of his mind and this is reflected in his gang. The only real problem with this psychotic activity is that the audience is not really worried about whether or not Eric can stop them. They are nothing but typical criminals compared to their real boss, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott).
Now, here is a guy that is calm, cool and knows what the hell is going on. The audience does worry whether or not Eric can take on this truly monstrous character.
The movie has aged somewhat since its initial release. It is very much a film of its time with a soundtrack that features several songs that fit with the grunge era of the 1990s. At the end of the day, though, the movie’s dark atmosphere, good performances and Eric’s journey still make this an early comic book film worth watching.