Directed by Alex Proyas
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
As a teenager of the 90s, The Crow soundtrack was pretty much THE soundtrack of that era (close second honors going to either the Judgment Night or The Last Action Hero soundtracks), and while I remember seeing the flick in theaters, it’s a movie that I hadn’t revisited since 1994 until the recent Blu-ray release from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
Based on the comic series by James O’Barr, The Crow finds aspiring rock star Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) rising from the grave a year after his death to take revenge on the four thugs (David Patrick Kelly, Angel David, Laurence Mason and Michael Massee) who murdered him and his fiancée on the eve of their wedding day. Fueled by supernatural powers of invincibility, the haunting power of revenge and guided by a mysterious crow, Draven paints his face black and white, suits up (like any good anti-hero would) and takes to the streets of D-Town to make right all the wrongs that had transpired against him and against those he loves the most.
Standing in the way of his revenge is Top Dollar (Michael Wincott), the coke-binging, twisted crime lord of Detroit who uses the annual “Devil’s Night” as an excuse to set fires to acquire real estate around the downtrodden city. As Draven hunts down and eliminates Top Dollar’s gang one by one (in fantastically brutal style), honest street cop Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) begins investigating Draven’s vigilante crimes when he begins to notice a pattern to all of the victims that mysteriously begin piling up at the city morgue.
If there ever was a truly “star-making” performance of the 90s, Brandon Lee’s work in The Crow is the definitely it. In his breakout performance Lee commands the screen in an unprecedented manner as the charismatic, haunted Eric Draven- a warm and caring musician whose tragedy transforms him into an undead avenger. Lee’s physical abilities also lent a bit of heft to the action sequences, playing up his supernaturally powered character’s ability to perform spectacular fast-moving sequences of violence and gunplay to boot.
But unlike most other young action stars of that era, Lee distinguishes himself here with his work in The Crow as a dramatic force to be reckoned with, turning in an emotionally wrecked performance that gives Draven multiple dimensions beyond him being a revenge-seeking ghost; it’s his heartbreak over losing his love that grounds his character and makes him more than an empty shell of an anti-hero. The word tragic doesn’t quite seem to do justice for what happened to Lee during the filming of The Crow, and seeing him here again is a haunting reminder of the young star’s potential.
The rest of the cast in The Crow are all equally deserving of praise as well; from the four main thugs Draven hunts down who manage to steal every scene they’re in to Wincott’s performance as a world-weary mob boss who happens to enjoy piles of coke and trading sexual innuendo with his half-sister (played by real-life nut job that I always love to see pop up in a movie- Bai Ling), everyone in The Crow brings their A-game, and that definitely elevates the flick beyond being considered just another glossy and over-stylized comic book adaptation of that era.
Hudson also brings his trademark warmth and humor to the character of Albrecht in The Crow, and some of his quieter moments that he shares onscreen with Lee happen to be some of my favorites of the flick. Horror fans also get to enjoy Tony Todd here playing one of his more subtle roles (and probably one of my top three favorites from him actually), and young actress Rochelle Davis gives the entire flick a childlike hope with her portrayal of Sarah, Draven’s surrogate daughter figure. It’s a nice touch that balances well with the rest of The Crow, which is downright dirty and dementedly nasty at times.
As a feature film debut, The Crow demonstrates a visionary director on the rise in former music video helmer Alex Proyas (who would go on to helm flicks like Dark City and I, Robot), who manages to find a way to whip up a cinematic symphony of love, violence and death with The Crow, making it a remarkable first time at bat for Proyas (also proving that video directors CAN successfully make the transition to feature films).
For diehard fans of The Crow, picking up Lionsgate’s Blu-ray is pretty much a no-brainer. The new 1.85:1/1080p transfer is stunning (I’ve never watched The Crow on DVD, but I can’t imagine that quality can hold a candle to what is presented here) with deep and strong colors throughout. The image quality isn’t too glossy either so for those of you who like your HD to be a bit “harder,” you may be taken aback by how soft this remastering looks. Personally I kind of dug this route, given that the low lit, gritty visual aesthetic of The Crow‘s cinematography really wouldn’t pop as well if the picture had a clean razor-sharp look to it.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix of The Crow Blu-ray is crystal clear as well with Graeme Revell’s blisteringly mournful rock score and the chart-topping rock soundtrack both sounding revitalized and haunting as ever. In terms of bonus features, I did some research and found out that what fans get on The Crow Blu-ray are mostly ported over from Dimension’s original Collector’s Series DVD, which included deleted/extended scenes, a vintage behind-the-scenes featurette, a shockingly honest interview with creator James O’Barr, poster designs, storyboards and theatrical trailers.
The only new offering on The Crow Blu-ray is an audio commentary with director Alex Proyas which definitely doesn’t disappoint, giving a fresh perspective on The Crow including anecdotes regarding Lee’s work on the flick, the usual directorial tidbits and even a bit about his later work including Dark City. As someone who hadn’t seen The Crow in seventeen years, I’m glad I waited to do the commentary the second time around since Proyas’ commentary was equally fascinating as the movie and I wanted to be able to pay attention to both at various times.
It’s no secret that The Crow rose to infamy due to the unfortunate on-set death of its star Brandon Lee; but in the wake of tragedy, the movie managed become a legitimate pop culture phenomenon all on its own, leaving a legacy of over $100 million dollars in worldwide box office receipts, three sequels, a television spin-off as well as an impending remake (possibly) on the horizon. Some seventeen years after its theatrical release, The Crow continues to rank as one of the finest comic book adaptations ever filmed, and fans of the film have absolutely no excuse not to pick up the film on Blu-ray as the format breathes new vivid life into The Crow‘s timeless story of love, death and justice.
4 out of 5
3 out of 5