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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.62%
Average: 6.76%
Pretty Bad: 10.81%
Total Crap: 0.68%

6 reviews, 112 user ratings

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Crow, The (1994)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"They should've just scrapped the footage."
2 stars

"The Crow" would be morbid and sepulchral even if Brandon Lee had survived the making of it. Without the ugly novelty of the fact that Lee died on the set, filming a routine gunplay scene that has been accomplished in hundreds of movies without fatal incident, I'm not proud to admit that I wouldn't have bothered with it.

Yet the on-set tragedy feeds into what the film wants to be about. Stylistically akin to Highlander and dozens of tedious direct-to-video movies, thematically identical to such pop standards as Batman, Darkman, Swamp Thing, and all the others that invite us to applaud a loner's revenge on the scum who took everything away from him, this is every inch a comic-book movie. Hardly a shock, since it's based on a comic book. And like a lot of superhero comics of the '90s, The Crow is angry, anguished, saturnine, "complex" -- in a word, pretentious. There's much babble about memory, about transcendence of death. Some may view the movie itself as proof of that: Brandon lives on -- here he is, in his final performance. Yet too much of The Crow gets off on death for it to be a celebration of immortality.

Lee plays Eric Draven, a guitarist who dies at the hands of a pack of vicious thugs, who also rape and murder his fiancée. (Lee himself was set to marry his own fiancée; he died two weeks before the scheduled wedding.) A year later, Eric claws his way out of the grave, not much the worse for wear, and hunts down his killers. That's essentially the movie, though screenwriters David J. Schow and John Shirley, adapting James O'Barr's cult comic, give Eric some buddies: a sympathetic cop (Ernie Hudson), a tough, skateboarding little girl (Rochelle Davis), and a crow that sometimes serves as Eric's eyes (and sometimes snacks on his enemies' eyes). But ultimately Eric is alone in his annihilating fury of grief. Given the number of tormented flashbacks to the fiancée's agonized death, The Crow seems to aspire to be a meditation on despair in the wake of a violent act. But Rambo had flashbacks, too.

Co-scripter David Schow is the brightest light in the horror-fan magazine Fangoria, for which he writes a column that often focuses on his adventures among the real-life ghouls and vampires at the Hollywood studios. Much of his graveyard wit is detectable in the dialogue of the lead villain, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott). "Die already," Top Dollar sneers at a man he's just impaled. Schow, however, isn't overly interested in the redemptive aspects of the material, the theme of a hero rising from the ashes. Nor does ambiguity detain him. We should sense that Eric's revenge deforms whatever humanity he has left. But that's not what the young audience responds to. For all its high-flown visuals and metaphysics, The Crow has a most basic, crude appeal: It sets up repulsive bad guys and prompts us to cheer when Eric slashes them down. It's Death Wish for Clive Barker fans. The movie's bitter vengefulness burns away any spiritual core it could ever claim to have.

The Crow's twisted roots grow in real agony. James O'Barr wrote and drew the comic, he says, to exorcise the rage and pain that nearly engulfed him after his fiancée was killed. A genuine wounded heart beats under the surface of hip nihilism, and Brandon Lee does his best to locate it. Would his performance be as moving without all the irony attached? I tried to forget, but death is stubbornly integral to the movie. Let's say that Lee has perfectly fine moments; he gives Eric a human soul, particularly when he's enjoying the terror he strikes in the hearts of evildoers. But the role is too sketchy for Lee to do anything truly startling with it. We know almost nothing about Eric or his fiancée; if we blink, we miss the reason that she was targeted for a hit. The Crow, I'm afraid, shows only the first small flexing of acting muscle. The real irony is that Lee will never do better than this, and he might well have.

As for the much-touted directorial "style" and "dark vision," it gave me a headache. Alex Proyas, a veteran of rock videos, can't get enough of murk, flashy editing, grating industrial music. Proyas is trying to create a specific, alien cityscape that advances, visually, the theme of the story. What rookies like Proyas forget about movies like Batman, Blade Runner, and Brazil is that they take time to invite you in; the camera caresses the design, gives you some bearings. Visually, The Crow is jumpy and off-putting right from the start, and we've seen much of it before anyway. (There is one satisfying image: Eric puts a flame to an outline of gasoline, which ignites and forms a fiery crow.) Proyas recruits great, oily character actors like Jon Polito and David Patrick Kelly, but the editing fractures their performances.

Despite our heart-of-stone reputations, we reviewers can be a sentimental lot, and our impulse is to go easy on a posthumous movie like The Crow -- to applaud the filmmakers for having completed production (though there's a necrophilic ickiness about it, no matter how many cast and crew members insist that Lee would have wanted filming to continue), and to attest that the late star's final appearance is a worthy swan song. In this case, we also recognize the poignance of a visual record of the renewal of a career aborted by fate. Lee had made several other films, mostly chop-socky junk in the tradition of his father, Bruce Lee; The Crow was going to be his break-out role. The ironies create a dark membrane between us and what's actually on the screen.

Some critics may buy into the movie's bleak mystique, or it may just be wishful thinking. But I doubt that anyone would be raving about The Crow, or flocking to see it, if its star were still alive to promote it on Letterman. The movie is simply more of the same gritty superhero nonsense that appeals to depressed 15-year-old boys. And it's not done all that well, either. The feelings of loss and rage just lead to action scenes, which are wash-outs.

The movie's true source of pain, clearly, is what happened to Brandon Lee on the morning of March 31, 1993. That's what critics are grabbing at to insist that his last film is something special. Sadly for him, and for those of us who value art, it's not.

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originally posted: 12/27/06 09:05:00
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell visonary and stylish storys kinda thin though 3 stars
1/19/16 Alexis H A man with a vendetta and a heart of gold 5 stars
3/31/12 jcar a very good movie with good acting and compelling story, lee is great in the part. 4 stars
5/31/11 Nikki One of my favourite films of all time (and I'm a 34 year old woman, not a 15 year old boy). 5 stars
4/29/11 man one of the best comic book movies 5 stars
1/22/11 herzog how can you beat badass as this film is? 5 stars
1/21/11 Crow94 My favorite film. Check it out. 5 stars
1/13/11 raider fucking awesome 5 stars
3/07/10 Marc Kelly My favorite movie of all romantic. 5 stars
8/19/09 Jeff Wilder An exploitation movie with a heartbeat. Dated in spots. But still worthwhile. 4 stars
6/08/09 Garrett Dark, cheesy, self-involved 2 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner One of my favorite all time films. 5 stars
7/31/08 georgia I liked it - was predictable though, but still worth watching! 4 stars
1/10/08 TERI Awsome,movie,good.good,movie,brandonlee,would,have,been,great,like,his,father 5 stars
10/06/07 Heretique The best. R.I.P. Brandon 5 stars
6/17/07 Lyrical Poet music,story, art direction, acting, cinematography, and action choreagrahpy are all perfect 5 stars
5/24/07 Dave excellent 5 stars
2/17/07 Punkstr2006 greatest movie ever made!!!! 5 stars
1/17/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
11/05/06 JOE Brandon Lee could have become agiant star, this performance, made him a Legend! I miss him! 5 stars
10/31/06 Justin dont fuck with the crow, asswipe 5 stars
8/05/06 nicklor24 great movie, if you haven't seen it, you're missing out 5 stars
8/01/06 bertram who ever wrote the fucked up line about the guitar solo kiss my ass you peace of shit 5 stars
5/13/06 ES I think Brandon Lee could have had an amazing career 5 stars
3/07/06 C Vega "It Cant Rain All The Time" DAMN Right!---One of the best movies i have seen 5 stars
10/26/05 Crumbcake A fucking classic and anyone who says otherwise gets a kick in the throat!!! 5 stars
10/22/05 james my fav movie of all time 5 stars
10/02/05 Nicole Love it 5 stars
9/29/05 Shari Terran It is one of the best films i have ever seen it never ages. 5 stars
9/16/05 drippy Completely and utterly amazing. 5 stars
9/07/05 JubJub Definitely a classic. 5 stars
9/02/05 Mailk A modern classic. The ultimate in gothic, baroque cinema. 5 stars
9/02/05 Edward This and DARK CITY are Alex Proyas' masterpieces...too bad I, ROBOT blew chunks. 5 stars
9/01/05 unlimited LONG LIVE BRANDON LEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/31/05 Christi Wilkins The original will always be the better... 5 stars
8/31/05 Vasquez best movie ever and very sad 5 stars
8/29/05 Blissful Johnny The Grinch sucks big monkey testicles...his opinion is one listen to him, okay??? 5 stars
8/28/05 Jabberjaw An out-and-out CLASSIC in every possible way. 5 stars
8/27/05 Rever_Bear-Trap Not what I expected but... GOTHIC TO THE CORE! POOR Brandon Lee! 4 stars
8/25/05 Copper A gothic, action, baroque masterpiece! Lee's performance is legendary! 5 stars
8/22/05 Rachel This movie ROCKS 5 stars
8/17/05 ES good movie, why does the Crow in all the sequels have to look like Brandon Lee? 4 stars
4/09/05 Bat Awesome fucking movie! 5 stars
2/21/05 mpg you're a fuckin retard grinch, this movies good,you revied it like a 10 year old 4 stars
2/13/05 Matt Fekete Great movie. Skip all the sequels, though. 5 stars
2/06/05 The Talking Elbow Compelling. 5 stars
11/19/04 Robert Phillips The Movie was awsome then and now 5 stars
10/17/04 Jennie Galvez The best movie on Earth!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/09/04 Denise Lee was awesome cool story 5 stars
9/27/04 y2mckay The Grinch's review was actually very funny - but I disagree 4 stars
9/07/04 Sugarfoot Great movie. Lee's best, although not saying much since he did do Showdown In Little Tokyo. 4 stars
6/29/04 DM the Grinch is a complete dumbass 4 stars
5/18/04 John better than expected 4 stars
5/17/04 Fernanda is the best movie ever! 5 stars
4/23/04 Agent Sands OK, but I almost forgot about it 12 hours after I saw it. Rarely happens. Not bad, though. 3 stars
2/04/04 Sammy Jo Jessie i find myself watching it over and over again 5 stars
1/26/04 Eric Damn shame about Brandon Lee.If he could have been in the rest they may have been better. 4 stars
1/25/04 Lexi This is the best dark movie ever! Brandon Lee was awesome! 5 stars
1/17/04 Richard Hooper Visually Stunning 5 stars
10/20/03 Josh Standlee The greatest revenge movie any human being could ever make! 5 stars
10/14/03 RUSS Great action film Lee could have been Neo. 5 stars
7/28/03 Boomer One of the greatest Love Stories ever!! Bruce & Brandon live on . . .-R.I.P.- 5 stars
7/24/03 Kit Simply put. Great movie. 5 stars
7/14/03 Samuel Justus Great Story!!!! if it could only happen in the real world!!! 5 stars
6/23/03 R.W. Welch Dark fantasy has some holes, but considerable flair and strong characterizations. 4 stars
6/23/03 Jack Bourbon Dumbest shit ever made! 1 stars
5/25/03 The Crow Best Movie I ever saw!!! 5 stars
5/10/03 PunkMime This movie just simply rocks. 5 stars
4/25/03 Jack Sommersby Great-looking but choppy and uninvolving. 2 stars
1/07/03 Jim Bleak and stylish tale of revenge, love, and even redemption 5 stars
11/29/02 Eric Draven The greatest actor ever ! The greatest movie ever ! The greatest graphic novel ever ! 5 stars
11/23/02 Mimi Lohr This movie has been and will always be my most favorite fucking movie in all of time 5 stars
11/21/02 Washington Irving Theres a reason its a cult classic... 5 stars
10/25/02 COF COOOOOOOOL MOVIE!!! 5 stars
10/07/02 Ashley LOVED IT !!....Everything you could want in a movie!..Hats off to Cast and Crew! 5 stars
9/30/02 TheBomb69 shame it had to be known for the death of Brandon Lee, solid flick!!! 5 stars
9/30/02 Charles Tatum Incredible film ruined by "the accident" 5 stars
9/29/02 Buddha It just oozes style and cool. 5 stars
8/10/02 Damien Raven The BEST MOVIE EVER 5 stars
8/05/02 Lexy Z. One of my favourites. 5 stars
3/07/02 Dave The most incredible love story of all time, dark, moody, stylish, in-fookin-credible 5 stars
12/12/01 slappy jacks brandon lee was really good despite being a hack performer(godblesshissoul) 5 stars
10/10/01 Cheyenne Rea This movie is awesome, and Brandon Lee, as well as the rest of the cast, did and outstandin 5 stars
5/21/01 The Bomb 69 well done all the way around, Lee would have been a star if lived through picture 5 stars
3/24/01 Casey top-notch, this movie had it all, great star (brandon lee, R.I.P), great plot, and killer m 5 stars
3/24/01 Alex For some strange reaso the love story got to me, this is one of my favorites 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Exquisitely heart-breaking and action-packed 5 stars
2/15/01 The Rubber Possum This is by far the greatest movie i have ever seen and possibly the best action film ever! 5 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla Destined to be a cult classic, but don't watch the shitty sequels or the series 5 stars
11/13/00 The EVIL Penguin it's too dark and pointless 2 stars
5/22/00 Obi Wan One of the best cult films!! If only we could have gotten a real sequel!! 5 stars
4/24/00 Ryan fairly decent 4 stars
3/21/00 Laura I happen to be a comic freak who loves this comic movie. There are few better 5 stars
11/18/99 KTL this film is awesome because it is well-though, not solely because Brandon Lee was in it 5 stars
9/24/99 Cyanide Rush Awsome setting, wicked acting, justified murder, solid drama and a kickin soundtrack. 5 stars
9/03/99 Myra I've yet to stay awake past the 20 minute marker. 2 stars
6/25/99 Michelle It is the best movie ever!!! 5 stars
3/04/99 Rachel Loved this movie, curse #2 and the damn tv series. 5 stars
1/12/99 demon_shredder Alex Proyas kicks ass. 5 stars
12/21/98 angie d. it sucks that Bradon Lee is dead. 5 stars
12/11/98 Scion of Graveheart Great, but what can I say? 'Nuff said. 5 stars
11/25/98 Fred 1994, the golden age of fucking awesome movies. 5 stars
11/21/98 Slupet Very Very cool movie 5 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob Alex Proyas creates a world AND atmosphere for the characters to live in. 5 stars
10/25/98 Lord Of The Dunce Just a great fucking movie. If Brandon was still alive they'd be up to part 4 by now. 5 stars
9/20/98 Ky about.....the best movie I've ever seen??? Long live Brandon Lee!!!! 5 stars
9/17/98 cheryl_ann it captured the character from the o'barr's comic very well. lee did a great job as draven. 5 stars
9/02/98 f*r*o*s*t*y Darkness, great love story, action, all dat. 5 stars
9/02/98 J-Guy great flick, probably a little too trendy, though. 5 stars
8/31/98 Mister Whoopee Coolly gothic. Lee will be missed. Proyas knows how to go dark. 4 stars
8/29/98 Johny Atmospheric entertainer of the best sort 5 stars
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  11-May-1994 (R)


  06-Jul-1994 (MA)

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