There are certain movies out there at certain times of your life that are spoken of in hushed tones as if they are legends. I never saw The Crow (1994) before yesterday, but it was one such movie as I went through my teenage years in the 1990s. At first, I knew nothing about it. I vaguely recall its release and being mildly interested in it. It stars Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, as the main character Eric Draven. More on the silliness of that name later, though you will probably be able to guess as I discuss the plot. It is an action film based on a comic book, and those were two things that appealed to me. It is also rated R, and my mom had some pretty tight restrictions on my viewing habits. What began its legend is what happened to Brandon Lee during the film. One of the guns used during filming that was supposed to be loaded with blank ammunition actually had a live round in it. This resulted in Lee being wounded and later dying during surgery. It is also a very ’90s movie, a decade when Goth and grunge music became popular, and cool kids in high school liked the movie. Had I seen it then, I probably would have thought it was cool too. The adult me had, well, different opinions. . . .
We swoop into The Crow with a voice over from Sarah (Rochelle Davis) explaining something about how sometimes when a person dies a horrible death, their soul is allowed to come back to avenge this awful deed. This is what happens to Eric and his fiancé Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas), who are brutally murdered by four local thugs on the night before Halloween. Apparently it takes a little while for the soul to make up its mind because it is not until a year later that Eric comes back to life to get his vengeance. We are then “treated” to a needlessly long, jarring flashback to the night of his and Shelly’s murder where he sees the faces of his attackers. They are Tin Tin (Laurence Mason), Funboy (Michael Massee), T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), and Skank (Angel David). Who thinks of these names? So Eric paints his face to look like a mime mask, dons all the black clothing he could find, and sets out to kill each one of those people in order. How is he able to do this, you might ask (unless you have lost interest by this point)? Well, I am glad you asked! His rising from the grave has granted him powers that he discovers along the way of his revenge quest, mainly whenever it is convenient for the plot. He can see beyond his normal range because he has a crow that is a companion for him, and who flies high above the city spotting his targets for him. He is indestructible, a fact he finds out rather innocuously by accidentally cutting his hand and watching it completely heal before his eyes. It also means that he can get shot, stabbed, and fall from great heights without permanent damage. There are some other things he can do that are a little fuzzy. He can fly, sort of, I think. He also has this ability to absorb emotional pain, or dish it out to others, both by touching another person. Again, I suppose. I mean, it is a thing that happens, but I do not know what that has to do with anything related to a crow. I have never touched a crow and felt its struggle with a seagull for a morsel of bread, but if you have had that experience . . . then you might want to consult an exorcist. I will spare you most of the rest of the details here, but suffice to say he accomplishes his goal. But then the four people he was after all worked for the most Goth crime boss ever, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott). Eric’s slaying of Skank involved attacking Top Dollar’s place, and most of his henchmen died in the process. In retaliation, Top Dollar kidnaps Sarah, who is not solely the narrator, but knew Eric and Shelly before they were murdered. In classic villain fashion, Top Dollar lures Eric to a certain trap. They have also figured out that the key to his power is the crow with which he travels. Boy, that is a dumb plot device. Still, they only manage to wound the bird, but that is enough to make Eric mortal once more. Luckily, he is aided by the cop who originally investigated his death, Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson). Together, they manage to defeat Top Dollar and rescue Sarah. Eric then returns to his grave next to Shelly to die once more.
I feel somewhat bad for saying this given the tragedy behind its filming, but The Crow is hilariously bad. Poor Brandon Lee. His one and only shot at the big time, and this is the result? And this is the movie that so many people idolized in the 1990s? There really is no accounting for taste. Because there were numerous moments I was laughing hysterically at the inexplicable plot choices, I was left with so many questions. Here is a hopefully not too exhaustive list of them. From the start, why did it have to be only Eric who came back? The opening narration explains that when terrible things happen to people, they are allowed to right the wrong. Was not Shelly’s death equally gruesome? I would argue more so considering she was also raped. Also, why did it take a year for Eric to come back? Why not wake up right away and get to killing? And the whole crow thing? Come on. I guess whoever originally wrote this liked Edgar Allen Poe, but did Eric’s last name have to be “Draven?” Draven. Da raven. The Raven. He even quotes the poem at one point. That is not just hitting it on the nose. That is bashing that appendage in to the point of it being concave. Additionally, what is the purpose of Sarah? She shows up every once in a while and does . . . nothing, other than being kidnapped at the end. And they never really set up her relationship to Eric and Shelly. She arrives at their building on the night of their murder and cries when they die, and you see her for roughly two seconds in Eric’s flashbacks. Maybe she is there to prove that Eric is actually a hero? It seems rather flimsy to me. There are others, but the biggest question comes at the end: why is it that Eric dies again when the crow is still alive. All of the sudden the movie wants us to believe that this bird is the source of his power, and that its death means those powers go away. Not only does it not die, but it helps defend Eric. And yet the wounds he sustains fighting Top Dollar result in his second demise?
When you have a film like The Crow where the elements do not make sense, all you can do is laugh. At the same time, I would not recommend it as one of those movies that is so bad it is good. It is really violent and bloody. There is also a bunch of pseudo-religious nonsense in it that is not only strange, but borderline satanic. Obviously, God does not return souls to their bodies in order to murder a bunch of people. We are taught not to seek vengeance. That is not our purview. Ultimate justice is up to God. There is also some light racism in it. Maybe I am the alien here, but was it necessary for the two items on Albrecht’s couch to be a basketball and a trombone? Weird. Otherwise, I would avoid this one.