Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Crow (1994)

The Crow is a 1994 American gothic action film based on the 1989 comic book of the same name by James O'Barr. The film was written by David J. Schow and John Shirley, and directed by Alex Proyas. The Crow stars Brandon Lee, in his final film, as Eric Draven, a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge his own murder, as well as that of his fiancée.

While filming during the last weeks of production, Lee was mortally wounded when a dummy bullet, which had become lodged in one of the prop guns, was shot into his abdomen by a blank cartridge. The film was a critical and commercial success after its release, opening at the top of the box office.
The Plot

On October 30, Devil's Night in Detroit, Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) is at the scene of a crime, where Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) has been beaten and raped, and her fiancé, guitarist Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), has been stabbed, shot, and thrown out of the window. The couple were to be married the next day, on Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl, Sarah (Rochelle Davis), whom Shelly and Eric take care of because her mother Darla (Anna Levine) is a negligent drug addict. Albrecht tells her that Shelly will be okay, but Sarah knows the truth: Shelly is going to die.

One year later, to the day, a crow taps on Eric's headstone; Eric awakens from death and climbs frantically out of his grave, trembling and wracked with convulsions. Eric goes to his old apartment and finds it derelict. He has flashbacks of his death, remembering that he and Shelly were murdered by local thugs T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), Tin-Tin (Laurence Mason), Funboy (Michael Massee), and Skank (Angel David). Eric soon discovers that any wounds he suffers heal immediately, and that he, being dead, is now immune to physical harm. He then replaces his burial clothes with dark, imposing attire, and paints his face in a parody of a porcelain harlequin mask, decorating his lips and eyes with black, scar-like slashes. Guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly's deaths.

The crow helps Eric locate Tin-Tin. They engage in a one-on-one alley fight, which Eric wins by stabbing Tin-Tin with all of his own knives. He takes his coat, leaving a large crow-shaped bloodstain on the wall of the alley. He then goes to the pawn shop where Tin-Tin pawned Shelly's engagement ring the year before. Eric forces the owner, Gideon (Jon Polito), to return the ring and blows up the shop, but allows Gideon to live so that he can warn the others.

Eric finds Funboy getting high on morphine in an apartment with Darla. Funboy shoots him in the hand and watches in horror as the wound closes up before his eyes. Eric then disarms him and shoots him in the thigh. Eric then places Funboy in the tub and confronts a hysterical Darla, grabbing her arm and showing her the reflection of her track marks in the mirror as the morphine pushes its way back out of her arm. Eric tells her to quit drugs in order to be a good mother to Sarah. Seeing Darla flee the bar, Grange (Tony Todd) then goes upstairs to investigate, finding Funboy lying on the floor and dying from having multiple syringes stabbed into his chest. Eric visits Albrecht, explaining his rebirth and mission. Albrecht tells him what he knows about Shelly's death and that he watched as she suffered for 30 hours before dying. Eric touches Albrecht's face, and all the pain and memories of Shelly's death are transferred to Eric. Gideon goes to warn Top Dollar (Michael Wincott), the local crime boss and T-Bird's superior, who thinks Gideon is making it all up and kills him by stabbing him in the throat with a rapier.

As T-Bird and Skank stop at a convenience store to get some supplies, Eric arrives and kidnaps T-Bird. Skank follows the pair and sees Eric as he ties T-Bird to the driver's seat of a car, straps explosives to him, and lets the car drive off the pier, where it explodes in mid-air, killing T-Bird. Eric leaves a fiery symbol in the shape of a crow burning at the scene. Meanwhile, Sarah and her mother begin to repair their strained relationship. Sarah goes to Eric's old apartment and tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric explains that, even though they cannot be friends anymore, he still cares about her. Top Dollar and his lover/half-sister Myca (Bai Ling) have become aware of Eric's actions through various reports from witnesses. He holds a meeting with his associates where they discuss new plans for their Devil's Night crime spree. Eric arrives at the meeting, looking for Skank. Top Dollar orders his men to shoot Eric, and a massive gun fight ensues. Top Dollar escapes quickly with Myca and Grange, while Eric systematically kills everyone in the room and, last of all, Skank, whom Eric throws out of a window.

Eric, having finished his quest, returns to his grave. Sarah goes to say goodbye to him and he gives her Shelly's engagement ring. She is then abducted by Grange, who takes her into a nearby church and where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Through the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to the church to rescue her. Unfortunately, Grange shoots the crow as it flies into the church, causing Eric to lose his invincibility. Albrecht arrives, intending to pay his respects to Eric, just after Top Dollar shoots and wounds Eric. Myca then grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power. Top Dollar ties Sarah up and climbs the bell tower as a fight ensues, with Albrecht killing Grange. When Albrecht is wounded, Eric climbs to the roof of the church on his own. On the way up, he encounters Myca, who tells him that all of the power that he ever had will soon be hers. However, just before she is about to shoot Eric, the crow escapes Myca's grip and pecks her eyes out, and then knocks her down the bell tower to her death. Eric reaches the roof of the church and encounters Top Dollar, who admits ultimate responsibility for what happened to Eric and Shelly. They fight, and, in the end, Eric gives Top Dollar the 30 hours of pain he absorbed from Albrecht and brutally squeezes his eyes in with his thumbs; the sensation sends Top Dollar flying off the roof of the church to be impaled on the horns of a gargoyle. Albrecht goes to the hospital, and Eric is reunited with Shelly at their graves.

Later, Sarah pays a final visit to the cemetery, and the crow, perched on Eric's headstone, gives her Shelly's engagement ring, dropping it in her open hand before soaring over the city and into the night.


The Crow was well-received by critics; review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a "fresh" rating of 83% based on 40 reviews. Reviewers praised the action and visual style. Rolling Stone called it a "dazzling fever dream of a movie", Caryn James writing for the New York Times called it "a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth", and Roger Ebert called it "a stunning work of visual style". The LA Times praised the movie also.

Lee's death was alleged to have a melancholy effect on viewers; Desson Howe of the Washington Post wrote that Lee "haunts every frame" and James Berardinelli called the film "a case of 'art imitating death', and that specter will always hang over The Crow". Berardinelli called it an appropriate epitaph to Lee, Howe called it an appropriate sendoff, and Ebert stated that not only was this Lee's best film, but it was better than any of his father's (Bruce Lee). Critics generally thought that this would have been a breakthrough film for Lee, although James disagreed. The changes made to the film after Lee's death were noted by reviewers, most of whom saw them as an improvement. Howe said that it had been transformed into something compelling. James, although terming it a genre film, said that it had become more mainstream because of the changes.

The film was widely compared to other films, particularly Tim Burton's Batman movies and Blade Runner. Critics described The Crow as a darker film than the others; Ebert called it a grungier and more forbidding story than those of Batman and Blade Runner, and Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that the generic inner city of Detroit portrayed in The Crow "makes Gotham City look like the Emerald City".

The distinctive features of the film for most critics were the fast-paced action and visual style. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and the production design by Alex McDowell were praised. While the plot and characterization were found to be lacking, these faults were considered to be overcome by the action and visual style. The cityscape designed by McDowell and the production team was described by McCarthy as rendered imaginatively. The film's comic book origins were noted, and Ebert called it the best version of a comic book universe he had seen. McCarthy agreed, calling it "one of the most effective live-actioners ever derived from a comic strip". Critics felt that the soundtrack complemented this visual style, calling it blistering, edgy and boisterous. Graeme Revell was praised for his "moody" score; Howe said that it "drapes the story in a postmodern pall."

Negative reviews of the film were generally similar in theme to the positive ones but said that the interesting and "OK" special effects did not make up for the "superficial" plot, "badly-written" screenplay and "one-dimensional" characters.

The Crow is mentioned in Empire's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time; it ranked at number 468.

The Cast

Brandon Lee as Eric Draven
Rochelle Davis as Sarah
Ernie Hudson as Sgt. Albrecht
Michael Wincott as Top Dollar
Bai Ling as Myca
Sofia Shinas as Shelly Webster
Anna Levine as Darla
David Patrick Kelly as T-Bird
Angel David as Skank
Laurence Mason as Tin-Tin
Michael Massee as Funboy
Tony Todd as Grange
Jon Polito as Gideon
Bill Raymond as Mickey
Marco Rodríguez as Torres

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