BlokeBusting the Essentials #45: The Crow
#45: The Crow
Quoth The Raven…
Well, well, well. Here we have quite the interesting entry. It’s not everyday that you get to discuss a film that has such a morbid history and an almost literal cult following. So let’s get going while the night is still young!
This review gave me a reason to do something that I’d never done before and had never actually spent the time to try and do before. This was my first ever viewing of The Crow. I’d heard of the sad tale of Brandon Lee, I’d understood that many people quite liked the film and I figured that I’d eventually see it one day. And that day just kept bobbing away on the horizon year after year. So now I’ve finally seen it and I get to talk about it. This should be fun!
This film is nuts. There’s no way around that, so let’s just get it out in the open now. The basic plot, if you haven’t seen it yet, is that a year after a young couple get killed (after some rather unpleasant stuff that I would rather leave alone here) a mysterious figure appears to take revenge on those who killed them. Not the most original of plots, but a good one to use if done well. Then the film effectively finds a dirt road to barrel down at 100mph while the writers attempt to shove together so many cliches and random characters with over-the-top action scenes, guns with effectively infinite ammo (looking at you, BL’s guns in the board-meeting scene) and a bad guy who is even more evil because he’s just evil than the woman from our last review!
Now, I know that what I just wrote looks like I didn’t like this film. And on paper this film should really not be any good. But this film is just plain fun! And I think it’ll help to explain why if we look into the characters a bit…
- Eric Draven (Brandon Lee)
This guy is weird. To begin with, it seems like he’ll be a character of few words and plenty of action. But VERY quickly we see that he’s not just a pretty face. He’s got one-liners that are both bad and fun to hear, he’s having fun in his revenge against the villains & he’s effectively immortal for 95% of the film. Imagine a more emo Freddy Krueger and you will be close to the mark (albeit a FK with a conscience). And that’s something that really works for the film. You keep wanting to see the guy pop up again just to hear what he says next, see what he does next or watch how he kills next. It’s a real tragedy that this was the last thing that Brandon Lee made. If you have time, please do look into the Wikipedia page for The Crow and the full details surrounding his untimely death. It makes for some really weird and sad reading, but it cannot be denied that it helped cement this film deep into the Cult status it now has.
- Sgt. Albrecht (Ernie Hudson)
You’ve seen detectives in films before. You know the guy who keeps getting pushed down simply for trying to do the right thing? That’s our guy right here. But once again, with a good actor playing the role we end up with a cool character who is not just the one “sane” cop trying to help. He’s the guy who has the backstory with the case, the one who just can’t let it go and the one who we get to follow most as he tries to fully get to grips with the impossible scenario that we’re all also trying to follow. In short, he’s both Captain Exposition & Psuedo-Audience at the same time. And once again, it just works!
- Top Dollar (Michael Wincott)
This guy. This guy is the definition of bat-guano insane. Apparently in an incestuous relationship with a half-sister, a crime kingpin who likes to do very random stuff with eyeballs and a man who cares as much for pretty much everyone else’s lives as a blind man cares what colour shirt you wear to meet him. He’s just bad to the bone, several screws loose and SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH! It’s genuinely amazing how much pleasure you can get just watching the man delivering dialogue in this film. Well done Mr Wincott, well done.
- Literally every bad guy in the film
This may sound like an odd choice to mention, but each time we see a guy who works for Top Dollar, they’re fairly well fleshed out and kinda interesting. And again, this film doesn’t seem like the sort of film that would have that. It’s yet another fun surprise that just keeps on giving!
The Feel Of The Film
This film has that certain quality that really lets you know that you’re in good hands. Less than 10 minutes in, you know exactly what sort of film you’re watching and that any and all expectations of logic and the like should be left at the door as you come in. It’s got a rather unique style that felt like Tim Burton and Wes Craven sat down one day to make an action thriller. The bad guys have stereotypical cheesy dialogue, the good guys have some equally cheesy but still good dialogue and there’s just a few pure gold nuggets thrown in here and there. There’s also a male character called Skank. I’m not sure you need to know anything else about him, but he exists! Seriously, this film is pure entertainment and I really found myself enjoying it outside of my reviewing mindset.
It wouldn’t be fair to simply lay out the fun stuff, so here’s a few things that I felt didn’t work that well.
- The Young Girl (Sarah)
I get it. We needed a reason for Draven to risk himself towards the end. But this girl was really kinda dull and annoying. She spends most of the film either pouting, calling out to Eric or being in danger. I felt that the revenge plot had enough there to hang the film on, so I wouldn’t mind seeing her character go.
- The Audio (sometimes)
I honestly don’t know if it’s because I do have some hearing loss, but I really had a hard time hearing ANY of the lyrics for any of the songs they used. I had the subtitles on for my viewing and they were zero help. And there’s even a few lines of dialogue that get so lost in the mix that Netflix just didn’t bother putting them on screen. The beats for the music were alright, but maybe spending a little more time on the mix would have been a good thing.
- The Darkness Levels
This film is set at night. Not a problem. This film has some dark costumes. Again, all fine. However this film has many dimly light scenes with people wearing black, often flowing, clothes and even the odd action scene in near total darkness. It’s a thematic choice that works well for the reveals of The Crow but kinda hinders the action at times as you’ll be leaning closer to your TV (or even worse, adjusting the settings!) to try and get a better look at what’s going on.
But that’s probably enough from me for now. Over to you, Mr BubbaCrow!
Out of all of the movies on this 100 Essential Superhero Movies list, this is the one that I’ve probably seen the most. I first watched it back when I was probably in my early 20’s which was a several years after it came out. It has something about it that speaks to the inner goth in a lot of people. It has style, great music, a great performance by Brandon Lee as well as a great tragedy associated with it. It’s a classic revenge story with some supernatural elements, plenty of interesting characters, and dozens of quotable lines of dialogue. It’s based on a comic book by James O’Barr and there’s just enough of a superhero element with the super powers, costume, and vigilante justice to include it on this list. The special effects were cutting edge at the time with one of the first instances of digital actor replacement. The film is rough around the edges, but it captures the right mood and fans of the film will love every scene and every moment within it. The action is great, the characters, the story, it all adds up to be a gothic, superhero, dark urban fairy tale. For a while, I would watch it every Devil’s Night and still love it to this day. I even dressed up as the Crow one Halloween back nearly 14 years ago.
As far as the lasting contributions, this film went on to have three sequels and a thirteen episode TV series that aired in syndication. A reboot of the movie has been in development hell for several years, with Jason Momoa at one point set to star. When it was released in 1994 it grossed $50M versus its small budget of roughly $15M. The sequels dropped heavily in budget and quality with City of Angels grossing a mere $17M and the next two sequels didn’t even get theatrical releases. The controversy and news about the tragic accidental death of star Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee likely helped its box office success. During one of the scenes, he was shot when a gun wasn’t fully checked and had an improperly modified dummy round still in the barrel. It was one of the first films to use digital actor replacement though it was still in its infancy and was really only used to paste Brandon Lee’s face on a stunt double’s face during a single flash of lightning. But it was still impressive for its time. It was also going to be the big breakout role for Lee as he was generally a direct to home video star with several credits on low budget, low quality action movies. It was one of the few good, successful comic book superhero movies of the 90’s and still holds up as a great film today.
Thank you Mr Wheat! Well, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of the whole reason we’re here. It’s time to answer those 3 big questions! And they are:
1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on the list?
3) If so, where does it stand?
Based on my above review, I think you can probably guess where this is going. But never-the-less, we shall forge onwards!
- Hell yes. This film is insane, it’s filled with schlocky lines and ideas, it’s got villains that feel like they’re all actually played by Nicholas Cage from various other roles and it’s got a VERY unique style. So yeah, everyone needs to see this film.
- Again, yes. The main character is really more of an anti-hero, but that still counts in my book. There’s strange powers, compelling villains and it feels like it came right out of a comic book from your local store.
- Here’s the fun thing. I didn’t know before I started this review whereI would put this film. I’ve had a while to think and it’s not any easier. But after much thought, here’s my new rankings:
1) The Crow
2) Dr Strange
3) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
4) Batman: The Killing Joke
5) Superman 3
6) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
8) Batman And Robin
9) The Amazing Spider-Man
10) BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
And after that actually shocking moment (Seriously, I didn’t think Dr Strange would move down so fast!), I shall bid you all adieu for now. Have yourself a wonderful Devil’s Night and if you see a bird that’s sitting, still is sitting, perched above a chamber door, maybe think about moving that bust of Pallas somewhere else…