The Crow (1994) Review

I wonder if The Crow wasn’t so infamous, whether it would be remembered as fondly as it actually is. I watched The Crow because I’d heard it was a cult classic, a Gothic revenge movie that many people hold close to their hearts and has seeped into pop culture somewhat and is even inspiring a remake. That is why I was quite shocked when The Crow turned out to be a pretty generic, low-rent revenge movie with no real inspiring or original elements.

I’m not sure how much of an impact the death of the central star, Brandon Lee, actually had on the final product but elements of the movie seemed rushed and poorly put together. For starters, there doesn’t seem to be any introduction to any of the key characters or their motivations. We get a look at a dark, seedy Detroit and an introduction to a poorly used Ernie Hudson and his generic, child from the street friend and then we’re thrown into the movie without any explanation.

The Crow just appears out of the ground, wet and angry. He decides to paint his face and do all his dirty work in the rain, with no explanation as to why, how or even who he is. We get a few sudden flashbacks but nothing that is actually going to make us care about the character or give us any clue as to what is actually going on. I’m not saying the film is confusing, it would just help if there was actually some sort of build-up so I could effectively root for this guy.

Every hero lives or dies on their villain and The Crows, again, is generic. A host of faceless and characterless thugs who have weapons instead of personalities. Eventually we meet the “kingpin” of the group who is introduced in a classic “killing a minion at a boardroom” scene but he hardly shines with any lasting effect and is just angry at The Crow by association.

Revenge thrillers live or die on the actual exacting of revenge. Man on Fire instantly comes to mind as a movie that delivers this aspect very well. The Crow does this quite well, with some cool, dark and grimy set-pieces that demonstrate some of the promise of the movie. The problem is, these are few and far-between and don’t pack the impact you would hope they would.

It also doesn’t help that The Crow himself doesn’t seem to have any “rules.” Can he be killed? Can he be harmed? If you kill the crow that keeps following him, do you also kill The Crow himself? It is like having a superhero movie without demonstrating any powers or any sort of reason for the person being “super” other than wet hair and cool face paint. The film is missing an explanation of events, why he came back or how all of the concept actually works.

It means that when we get to the finale, staged very well in a Gothic building, we seem to have added tension and peril that wasn’t around for the rest of the movie. All of a sudden, The Crow can be hurt so the bad guy “might” win. It all equates to a mess of a movie that feels rushed or incomplete – but for obvious reasons.

Maybe that is the key to the issues surrounding The Crow and why other people might overlook the flaws in the film and why it has become such a cult success. A decent origin to the character, some actual explanation of why he is how he is and some development of the reason he is on the war path would all allow the film to make more sense. Add to that some memorable villains that actually offer some sort of threat to the hero and we could get a film that is worth the attention and adulation that I’ve heard so much.

Overall, The Crow is a revenge thriller or superhero movie that is missing the key ingredients. No explanation of who the main character is or why he can do the things he can do, no decent, memorable villains and a lack of any solid action or decent set-pieces mean we get a mess of a film that feels incomplete or rushed.

Rating – 2

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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