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Man posting these reviews are killing me just now because of the struggles with the new site. Need to try and come up with something that works a lot better

Anyway I have 3 reviews left in my comic book season, and just to warn everyone these are also old favourites of mine, I'm talking top 100 material. So the ratings are going to skyrocket


Year of release

Directed by
Alex Proyas

Written by
David J. Schow
John Shirley
James O'Barr (graphic novel)

Brandon Lee
Rochelle Davis
Ernie Hudson
Michael Wincott
Anna Levine
Bai Ling

The Crow

Plot - On the night before their wedding, rock singer Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancé Shelly are brutally killed by a gang of thugs on Devil's Night. Exactly one year later, Eric Draven rises from the dead with the intention of getting revenge on those responsible for his death and the death of the woman he loved. Guided by a crow and blessed with supernatural powers, he begins to track down the killers one by one. While he is able to pick them off with ease, he faces a tougher task when it comes to their boss, crime lord Top Dollar (Wincott). If he is to complete his task and gain his vengeance he will need to rely on the help of a young girl he befriended when he was alive, Sarah (Rochelle Davis), and a cop who looks out for Sarah, Sergeant Albrecht (Hudson).

One of the reasons I love this film so much is due to the numerous different levels that it works on. On the one hand it's a great, bad-ass vigilante flick full of righteous vengeance and gruesome violence. It's also a damn good action film with some excellent set-pieces. As well as a pitch black romantic fantasy.And it's also a deliciously gothic slice of the supernatural. I just adore the whole look and feel of the film. It's just so damn atmospheric, brooding and gloomy. The Detroit presented here is a hellish, almost otherworldly place. One of the most iconic lines of dialogue in the movie is Eric Draven's “it can't rain all the time.” Well apparently no-one told that to Detroit! With its forever rain-lashed streets, seemingly eternal nights, dark and grimy aesthetic and the billowing of smoke from fires all over the city it is a tremendously evocative and fitting setting for the story. The film's frequent fly-over shots of the cityscape are excellent, taking great advantage of an impressive mix of sets, miniatures, special effects and visual tricks to create a convincing world populated by dark, grimy streets and exaggerated, impressionistic architecture. Also impressive is the entire production design of Alex McDowell, with the set and art departments coming up with some wonderful creations. And that work is brilliantly captured by the cinematography of Dariusz Wokski. There's something of Gotham city about the look of the place, although by comparison it makes the Gotham presented in Tim Burton's Batman films look like a decidedly cheery place. It's terrifically noirish. In terms of bringing its comic book source material to life I'd have to put this up alongside the likes of Sin City as being one of the closest translations from page to screen ever produced. Oh and I almost forgot the character of The Crow himself. With his painted face and draped all in black, he is a fantastically vivid and powerful visual. It's no wonder you still see people breaking the look out at Halloween for costume parties.

In the lead role Brandon Lee is excellent, bringing a real charisma and a poetic, mysterious presence to the character. He also has a real aura of sorrow and tragedy about him that is perfect for the character, and is undoubtedly heightened by the tragic accident that befell him on the set. The knowledge of that adds an additional weight and pathos to the film. With the film's comic book roots, the white painted face of the character and the tragic death of Lee there is an unavoidable link to Heath Ledger and his portrayal of the The Joker. And just like Ledger, we are sadly left to only imagine just how much this film may have elevated Lee's career. At the very least this film exists to serve as a wonderful epitaph to Lee and what may have been. It's an amazingly tragic coincidence that the exact same fate befell Brandon's father Bruce, who passed away all too young but also left an indelible reminderof his talents with Enter the Dragon. Also proving to be tragically ironic is just how closely the character of Eric Draven mirrors that of Brandon Lee himself. Like his character, Lee was just weeks away from getting married when he sadly died. And his death actually occurred while filming the death scene of his character. It really does give the film an inadvertently haunting quality.

As his main nemesis, Lee finds a wonderful counterbalance in the form of Michael Wincott as Top Dollar. He hams it up to a wonderfully nefarious level, creating a spectacularly evil and despicable villain. In fact there's something almost Satan-esque about him, bringing to mind the suited businessman-Devil creations of De Niro and Pacino in Angel Heart and The Devil's Advocate respectively. He is also able to generate a few laughs with his deliciously deadpan delivery. While he is the undoubted stand-out amongst the villains that Eric faces, there are also a series of very colourful characters surrounding him. In the role of Top Dollar's twister lover/half-sister, Myca, Bai Ling may not got much in the way of dialogue but certainly makes an impact thanks to her character's depraved nature and tendency for sadistic violence. And the fact that's she damn sexy in a scary kind of way certainly doesn't hurt! Also making a memorable impression as Top Dollar's henchmen are David Patrick Kelly (T-Bird), Angel David (Skank), Laurence Mason (Tin-Tin) and Michael Massee (Funboy). There are also some highly entertaining performances from some great character actors. Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame is very likeable as Sgt. Albrecht, the beat cop who looks out for Sarah and comes to aid Eric. While as Gideon, the piece of trash pawn shop owner, Jon Polito is as entertaining as always. Oh and in the role of Sarah there is Rochelle Davis. She may not come across as the most skilled of actresses (though to be fair it was only her first performance, and her last until 2009) but she makes the character a sympatheticand strong character with bravery and street smarts.

Film Trivia Snippets - Before Brandon Lee was cast in the role of Eric Draven both Christian Slater and River Phoenix were approached about it. While James O'Barr ideally wanted Johnny Depp to take on the role. Although wait until you hear about the plans the movie's executives had for the film. When James O'Barr met with them they originally wanted to make it into a musical starring Michael Jackson! Thinking it was a joke, O'Barr immediately began to laugh uncontrollably, only to find out that they were actually serious. It was only when Brandon Lee and Alex Proyas came on board that they movie took on a more serious tone. /// I mentioned how James O'Barr had wanted Johnny Depp for the part. He originally wasn't that happy with the casting of Brandon Lee in the lead role. Up until then all he had seen Lee in was Showdown in Little Tokyo and feared that it would end up as a Kung Fu movie and go straight to video. When he first met Lee on the set in the make-up and iconic outfit however he was thrilled with him. He was amazed by Brandon's take on the character when he spoke the exact lines from the comics. /// When it came to the role of Shelly, it was actually offered to Cameron Diaz but she turned it down as she didn't like the script. /// It seems that it may have been fated for Brandon Lee to die on set, and that you could perhaps have predicted it. According to a biography of Bruce Lee, he actually predicted his son's death when he awoke from a coma. He apparently foresaw his death on a set before Brandon had even considered taking up a career as an actor. The production itself also appeared to be rather cursed. During the first day of shooting a carpenter on the crew suffered severe burns after his crane hit live power lines. On subsequent days there was a grip truck that caught fire, a disgruntled sculptor crashed his cart through the studio's plaster shop, and a crew member accidentally drove a screwdriver through his hand. Lee too suffered a mishap before the accident that cost him his life. During the scene in Gideon's pawn shop Lee cut himself when he broke the glass. It was breakaway glass and it's very rare that anyone ever gets cut by it. Jon Polito actually told Lee that he was feared he would die in an on-set accident like Vic Morrow did on Twilight Zone: The Movie. /// Originally Alex Proyas wanted to shoot the entire movie in black and white to closer mimic the original comics, only using colour in the flashback scenes. The studio executives weren't keen on the idea however, making him shoot the movie in a monochromatic colour theme mixed with red and dark grey.
Re-watching this film I was really impressed by Alex Proyas' direction. His compositions and sweeping camera work make for a very grand, operatic experience. He just gives it such an epic feel at times, particularly in the final face-off between Eric and Top Dollar up on the rooftop. With the camera swooping high over the city, or dropping down to give shots at extreme low angles, Proyas' direction really does seem to strive to create images that could live just as comfortably on the pages of a comic book as they do up on the big screen. There is also some striking use of shadows throughout and Proyas keeps the whole thing flying along at a breakneck pace. Also adding to the overall atmosphere of the film is its terrific soundtrack. When James O'Barr was creating the original graphic novel he would constantly listen to songs by the likes of Joy Division, Iggy Pop and The Cure for inspiration. Therefore it feels very fitting that the soundtrack is composed exclusively of hard rock and heavy metal, featuring amongst others The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine and Pantera. Alongside these songs there is Graeme Revell's excellent score; a terrifically intense, edgy and eerie creation. Together they create a soundtrack for the film that perfectly reflects its dark mood.

In terms of flaws I know that many people who don't like the film would likely point out the simple, superficial story and its one-dimensional, stereotypical characters. While I'll concede that there may be something in that, for me its style and striking visuals more than make up for it. And while The Crow is a film that undoubtedly revels in how stylish it is, I certainly don't think it's a case of just being style over substance. The film has a real degree of heart to it, as a result of both the romance between Eric and Shelly, and the story of the young girl Sarah. The Crow presents an immense love, one for the ages, where not even death proves to be an obstacle that cannot be overcome. Though one thing that I would have liked to have seen more of were flashbacks of Eric and Shelley together in happier times. Also bringing some emotion is Sarah's quest to survive on the tough streets with a junkie mother. Her voice-over which both opens and closes the film talks of preserving the memories of those that you have loved and lost, and was added after Lee's death in a bid to soften the film. People who aren't great fans of the film may also accuse it of being dated, but as an admirer I prefer to think of itas a time capsule of the early 90s, capturing much of what was considered cool at the time - gothic stylings, the grunge movement, black leather being the height of fashion etc. And the film does at times resemble the music videos that dominated the likes of MTV and VH1 in the early 90s.

One thing I will say is that it perhaps helped that I first saw this film when I was a teenager. I think it really is a film that appeals to a younger demographic, particularly those of an adolescent standing. It will obviously be one of the go-to films for those of the goth and emo persuasion but I think in general it will just appeal to people of that age. It seems that at that age, more than any other, we are more prone to feeling dark, troubled and rebellious, with this film suitably tapping into that. Had I come to the film for the first time when I was older there's a chance I may have seen it more silly and campy.

Conclusion - A visceral and lurid revenge fantasy that is directed with style and flair by Alex Proyas, features a fantastically vulnerable and mesmerising central performance from Brandon Lee that is set in a world created by some tremendous production design. When I originally saw this film as an impressionable teen I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. Even now, more than a decade later, there is still a great deal of truth in that for me.

Bonus Film Trivia - As everyone knows Brandon Lee tragically died during a mishap on the set. A scene required a gun to be loaded, cocked, and then pointed at the camera. Because of the close-range of the shot, the dummy cartridges loaded had real brass caps, a bullet, but no powder. After the cut, the props master (not the arms master - he had left the set for the day) dry-fired the gun to get the cock off, knocking the projectile/bullet into the barrel of the gun. The next scene to be filmed involving that gun was the rape of Shelly. The gun was loaded with blanks (which usually contain double or triple the powder of a normal cartridge to make a loud noise). Lee entered the set carrying a bag of groceries containing an explosive blood pack. The script called for Funboy (Michael Massee) to shoot Eric Draven as he entered the room, triggering the blood pack. The bullet that was stuck in the barrel was blasted at Lee through the bag he was carrying, killing him. The footage of his death was subsequently developed and used as evidence in the investigation into his death. As part of the lawsuit settlement, the footage was later destroyed. /// Although he personally was not at fault for Lee's death, Michael Massee was so traumatised by his involvement in the incident that he stopped acting for over a year. To this day he has also never brought himself to actually watch the film.