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A man comes back from the grave in the guise of a night bird to avenge his and his girlfriend's deaths.
For more about The Crow and the The Crow Blu-ray release, see the The Crow Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 11, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Alex Proyas
Writers: James O'Barr, David J. Schow, John Shirley (III)
Starring: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson, Sofia Shinas, Anna Levine
» See full cast & crew
The Crow Blu-ray Review
Death be not proud.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 11, 2011
Would The Crow have become the phenomenon it did without the tragic death of its star Brandon Lee just a little over a week before principal photography was scheduled to wrap? Certainly star deaths during pre-production or production were nothing new in Hollywood by that time, and famous projects starring everyone from Tyrone Power to Montgomery Clift to Marilyn Monroe saw desperate scrambling (not always successful) to salvage whatever last ventures they had been involved in before their demise. But Lee's premature death was probably raised to mythic heights at least partially because he was the son of another star who died too soon, Bruce Lee. When the elder Lee died (under what some still insist are mysterious circumstances), he hadn't quite become the icon he would post-mortem, and his son seemed poised several years later to assume the mantle his father had forsaken far too early. When Brandon in turn was killed in a freak accident involving a wrongly prepared gun which ended up firing a fatal charge into Lee's abdomen, it seemed as if fate had some sort of vicious streak aimed at the family. The fact that The Crow, based on an underground comic book (the term "graphic novel" was still nascent in those days), dealt with a young man who returns from the dead to avenge both his and his fiancée's deaths only made the whole project more alluring is a sort of proto-Goth way. One way or the other, The Crow's cast and crew came together in the wake of Lee's untimely death and completed the film, and it was released to a fair amount of fanfare and perhaps surprisingly strong box office. Seen now from the vantage point of almost two decades, the film is a testament to director's Alex Proyas' (Dark City; I, Robot) emerging visual style, but either due to Lee's unfortunate exit or simply a combination of other factors, the film often feels disjointed and incomplete, a mishmash of admittedly exciting sequences which never add up to a cohesive whole. This is a film where the parts separately may indeed add up to more than the sum of them collectively.
It's impossible to escape the all pervasive sense of morbidity which attends The Crow, not just because of its deathly subject matter but also due of course to the knowledge that we're watching a star who met his own demise on the set of the picture. That sort of "meta" experience may actually heighten The Crow's impact, helping it to attain the mythic stature the story in and of itself only fitfully is able to convey. The story in fact is (no skeletal pun intended) bare bones. Musician Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancée Shelly (Sofia Shinas) are viciously murdered by a gang of thugs who are celebrating (if that's the right word) Devil's Night, October 30, the night before Hallowe'en, which is of course All Hallow's Eve. Why these thugs have targeted Eric and Shelly is never adequately explained, just one of The Crow's weaknesses in terms of providing context and backstory. Eric is killed immediately but Shelly manages to hang on for a horrifying 30 hours before ultimately expiring. That leaves Sarah (Rochelle Davis), the young street girl whom they had been helping, to fend for herself, since her drug addict mother Darla (Anna Levine) isn't exactly a model of maternal nurturing and solace. The rough and tumble (and chain smoking) policeman investigating the crime, Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson), takes a shine to Sarah and becomes her ally after the deaths of Eric and Shelly.
A year later, a supernaturally endowed crow lands on Eric's gravestone, pecks at it, and awakens the dead man from his eternal slumber. Eric returns to the site of his and Shelly's murder, and remembers what happened to them. He applies grotesque, Joker-esque makeup to his face and dons positively Gothic black clothing and sets about avenging the deaths of a year prior. That, in a nutshell, is all there is to The Crow, and despite its visual virtuosity courtesy of Proyas' sweeping, swooping camera moves, may not be enough. The Crow is inarguably a film where style trumps substance, but as anyone who has enjoyed the much weightier Dark City will understand, Proyas' stylistic ingenuity is such that the lack of actual plot and character become less pressing than they might otherwise be in the hands of a less artful director.
The Crow probably can't be fairly judged on at least some levels as Lee's death no doubt crippled production and left the filmmakers at a loss with how to complete the project. They no doubt did the best they could, but the film still seems woefully underdeveloped both in terms of Eric and Shelly's love story and the antagonistic relationship between Eric and the goons who become his victims later on in the film. While Proyas attempts to develop some heart with regard to the sidebar storyline between Sarah and Darla, that element seems relatively shoehorned into the proceeding and ultimately can't help provide the focus that should indeed be there, namely Eric himself. What remains, however, is an often exciting and visually impressive film that does an outstanding job within its extremely constrained boundaries. As a vengeance flick, The Crow is fine. One can't help but think, though, that it could have been so much more. The film closes with some narration by Sarah which serves as a fitting epitaph not just for Lee, but for The Crow that might have been:
If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.
The Crow Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Crow wings its way onto Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.84:1. This is a surprisingly sharp and lustrously dark (in a good way) looking high definition presentation, especially considering the fact that Proyas filmed The Crow on a less than blockbuster budget, to say the least. As fans of the film know, almost the entirety of the movie plays out at night, in darkened rooms and in shadowy outdoor locales, and despite that fact, shadow detail is phenomenal with virtually no sign of crush, despite the predominance of black on black textures throughout. Fine detail is excellent, especially in close-ups, and the overall image boasts impressive sharpness and clarity. Some of the film is still somewhat lurid in terms of color, and that proclivity is only increased by the saturation of this Blu-ray, so sequences featuring blood and gore simply look more abundantly bloody and gory. Noise is a non-issue, another impressive achievement considering the long nighttime sequences streaked with rain. Grain is still intact and while it may be troublesome in some of the optical shots, it's never overwhelming to the point where it devolves into noise. Black levels are sumptuous and superbly gradated and contrast is strong within the confines of this almost exclusively dark film.
The Crow Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Crow's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also surprisingly effective for such a relatively modestly budgeted affair. Part of the immersive capabilities of the mix is due no doubt to the excellent use of source cues which Proyas utilized to provide underscore, but there are a number of standout sequences alive with excellent and frequently impressively directional sound effects. The crow itself (as in the bird, not the character) is provided with some great foley effects, including everything from its pecking beak to its flapping wings. And of course the action sequences are filled with great crashes, smashes and other effects, including some great LFE, that bring the sonic enjoyment level up immeasurably. Dialogue is clear and well presented and the overall mix boasts superior fidelity and some awesome dynamic range.
The Crow Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Crow Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you accept The Crow on its own terms, suspending disbelief while at the same time remaining aware of the challenges the filmmakers faced after Lee's unfortunate death, the film is tremendously exciting and is a great example of Proyas feeling his way into the impressive visual sweep he would show so brilliantly in his later films. Looked at objectively, the film is a decidedly more questionable affair, with a slapdash feel and several underdeveloped plot points. One way or the other, it's both bracing and more than a little sad to see Brandon Lee doing such a fantastic job in the title role. This Blu-ray looks great and sounds fantastic, and it has a decent array of supplements. Recommended.
The Crow: Other Editions
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