Forever enshrouded in an air of macabre, due to the death of star Brandon Lee during the filming of the movie and the whole premise, The Crow was a great success when first released, and has since maintained a loyal following over the past two decades. Some of that success, undoubtedly, stems from people who became curious about the movie after hearing of the fatal on-set accident, but I like to think that some, if not most, of it stems from the fact that it's a great movie, boosted by a charismatic lead turn from Lee, working at his very best.
Eric Draven (Lee) is a musician and a man very much in love with his fiance, Shelly (Sofia Shinas). Well, he WAS. You see, a bunch of thugs broke into their apartment, raped and assaulted Shelly and threw Eric out of a window. Eric died, while Shelly battled with pain for 30 hours before finally succumbing. A police officer (Ernie Hudson) stayed with her, in the hope of getting a statement that would help him catch the criminals, but nothing could be done. One year later, Eric is brought back from the dead. He crawls out of his grave, watched by a crow, and staggers around while he figures out just why he is back. It soon becomes clear what he has been brought back for. Revenge.
Based on a comic by James O. Barr, The Crow has a solid screenplay, by David J. Schow and John Shirley, and is directed brilliantly by Alex Proyas. From beginning to end, this is a treat for the eyes. Some (okay, quite a few) of the special effects have already dated a bit, but whether it's a view of events through the eyes of the crow or a shot showing Brandon Lee athletically swinging around on a window frame, every scene has at least one or two gorgeous moments. The ears are also well looked after, with a soundtrack that features a great score by Graeme Revell weaving in between tracks by The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine and many more.
Michael Wincott is a villain, accompanied by the likes of Tony Todd, David Patrick Kelly, Angel David, Laurence Mason, Michael Massee and Bai Ling. Wincott rules every scene that he is in, as you might expect, but the pleasant surprise is just how each villain gets just enough time to show their defining characteristics before death comes calling for them. Jon Polito also gets a few good moments, playing a cowardly pawnbroker profiting off the misery of others. Anna Levine is good as the drug-addicted mother of the young girl (Rochelle Davis) who soon puts two and two together to work out the identity of the avenger with the painted face. Hudson is warm and likable and brilliant in his role, and then there's Lee, who gives a performance that I like to think would have taken his career up to another level, had his life not been cut short by that terrible accident. But that's something that we'll never know.
What I do know is that The Crow has aged pretty well. Detractors can pick apart some of the FX work and the excessive rock video style of a number of moments, but there are plenty of set-pieces and electric scenes that more than make up for any failings. Fans will enjoy revisiting this one, and anyone who has yet to see it should do so whenever they get the chance.