First the bad news: The Crow
has the thinnest plotting and characterizations of any recent film I can think of. As befits its comic-book origins, it's little more than a videographic series of flashy scenes strung together with the thinnest of motivations to make a Nineties-style industrial actioner. Now the good news: it rocks.
There's no better way to put it. Brandon Lee's swan song is a kinetic, pounding, adrenalized feast for the senses, if not the psyche. Bursting with startling images, eclectic staging, and gorgeous neo-gothic set design (not to mention a brilliant, brooding soundtrack that, for once, actually feels like it belongs here), it looks and feels truer to its roots than any dozen Batmans
or Dick Tracys.
Lee plays musician, Eric Draven, who, one year to the day after his brutal murder and the murder/rape of his fiancee, returns to the land of the living to avenge the atrocities of crime boss Top Dollar (Wincott) and his gang of psychotic, drug-addled lackies. Plotwise, that's all she wrote, but director Proyas (previously known for his award-winning work on television commercials and music videos, and it shows) beats the remarkably bad odds -- Lee was killed three-quarters of the way through filming when a supposedly unloaded gun discharged on the set -- and turns in a genuinely affecting piece of Nineties-style film noir that, despite its overall transparency, has more going for it than 95 percent of the action/suspense drivel that passes for entertainment these days. Top-flight splatterpunk/cyberpunk authors David J. Schow and John Shirley's screenplay makes the most of the story's inherently gothic nature, simultaneously playing up both the undying love aspects of the story and The Crow's
supernatural horror show themes. For his part, Lee's performance is striking, nuanced, and subtle. You get the feeling that Eric Draven would much rather be in the ground beside his betrothed, worms or not. He's a tired and tireless avenging angel, at once devoid of mercy toward his attackers and able to reach out to his living friends and comfort them as the proverbial city burns. Unlike the character he plays here, Lee is unfortunately gone for good; still, I can't think of a better epitaph to leave behind than this one.