The Crow  (1994)R

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This film succeeds in spite of a lot of strikes against it, such as the death of the star, Brandon Lee, from a negligent accident during filming. The biggest strike is that the plot is from the bottom of the barrel of action movie formulae: a guy goes on a deadly rampage to avenge his murdered loved one(s) or other hideous crime. Some of the most offensive excesses of the action genre have been committed according to that formula, using the rule that there is no limit to how vicious and evil the “hero” can be, as long as the villains are worse. Call it the I Spit On Your Grave school of filmmaking. The Crow doesn’t fight Communism on principle, his battles are purely personal. Once his enemies are gone, he sinks back into his grave. Yes, that’s right: the loved one(s) he’s avenging include himself — the protagonist is a guy who’s already dead.

In this film, however, the story is carried off very well. Somehow they manage to make it come across as justice instead of vengeance. Brandon Lee is somewhat uncharismatic (except when showing off stylish action moves), yet they make it work; it helps him come off as more of an ordinary everyman who has been caught up in awful circumstances. The film’s look is very well executed; it manages to capture the stylized and simplified world of a graphic novel where there is never any sunshine (by non-coincidence, the director is the same guy who did Dark City, Alex Proyas), and at the same time stay realistic, leaving you with the feeling that this is happening in our own real world.

This film is considered a bona fide “cult classic”, and if you’re a hardcore Goth type, some of your co-subculturists have been heard to call this the Coolest Movie Ever. For those of us who don’t get off on death-image wankery, it’s nothing all that super special... and even for those who really want a movie about a dead guy coming back for revenge, I say Spawn is superior. But of course, for those who get off on death, the fact that the star got killed during filming just makes this movie inimitably special...