The Crow
directed by Alex Proyas
(Miramax, 1994)

The Crow created a new mythology, an elegant dance of horror and death as a restless spirit seeks vengeance on the people who brutally killed him and his fiancee on Devil's Night, the eve of Halloween when fire and violence run rampant in Detroit.

The mythology took a hit with a pair of mediocre sequels that sounded the death knell of the series, but the first movie, The Crow starring Brandon Lee in his finest and final role, deserves to be visited and revisited to see how a story of revenge, blood and hate -- all wrapped around a nugget of tragic love -- should be filmed.

Eric Draven (Lee) is brought back from the grave one year after his death to avenge the unsolved murders. But, while police might not know who the killers are, Eric does -- after all, he was there, at the point of a knife, the business end of a gun and the hard end of a very long drop. Now painted as a harlequin (a signature piece that made less sense in subsequent films), he roams the city as a grim angel of death, accompanied at every step by the mysterious crow who summoned him from his coffin.

The backstory is provided through stylish flashbacks and an effectively unemotional voice-over by the young survivor Sarah (Rochelle Davis). Eric also finds a reluctant ally in Officer Albrecht (Ernie Hudson), who is forced by events to believe in the unbelievable.

The Crow provides a particularly fine cadre of villains, from the basest street scum to the most freakish crimelords, for whom violence is the end, not the means. The low-level thugs who are Eric's initial targets are T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), Tin Tin (Laurence Mason), Funboy (Michael Massee) and Skank (Angel David). There's Gideon (Jon Polito), the abrasive and abusive pawnshop owner who traffics in the fragments of destroyed lives, and Grange (Tony Todd), the unflappable right-hand man. But best of all are the mad pair at the top, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) and Myca (Bai Ling), two depraved lovers/siblings who thrive on chaos and destruction for sheer anarchy's sake. The city, too, deserves a star billing -- it's dark, bleak and gothic, but it never feels fake.

But Lee is the heart of this movie, bringing pain, righteous anger and a little bit of humor to a difficult role. Of course, this is also the film in which the actor died, killed by an errant bullet casing in a gun that should have been empty. It's a tragic end to a promising career.

The Crow is not for the squeamish, but it is for anyone who enjoys good action and horror blended into a slick package.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 27 March 2004

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