(Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of The Crow in theaters. -Ed)
Quick quiz: which of the following is actual dialogue from The Crow?
I’d die a thousand times for one more day with her. Bullets hurt.
Mother is the name for god on the lips and hearts of all children. Morphine is bad for you.
I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees. Did you eat dinner yet?
A man who doesn’t fight for the woman he loves is no man at all. Don’t smoke, kids.
The answer, of course, is #2. The other three are from my Crow fan fiction. “Mother is the name for god…morphine is bad for you” should have won this movie best adapted screenplay. It’s my favorite two consecutive lines ever written in any medium. How did Forrest Gump take home the Oscar?!
I want to make something clear from the outset of this article: the following statement contains no irony whatsoever. The Crow is my favorite movie of all time. I unreservedly love this movie. I was 13 when this movie came out, and everything about it was tailored to the interests and needs of a teenage boy. If by chance you’ve never seen or heard of The Crow, it’s a comic book movie. The creator of the Crow, James O’Barr, wrote it as a means of dealing with the death of his girlfriend. The film tells the story of Eric Draven, the front man of a goth band who was murdered along with his fiancee on the night before Halloween, Devil’s Night, and the eve of their wedding. A year later he is transported back to the land of the living by a crow and takes revenge on the men who killed him and Shelly.
As you can probably tell by the mother line, this movie features dialogue tailor made to seem deep to somebody in his or her mid-teens. The one unifying factor for all teenagers is that they feel things deeply. It’s like between the ages of 13 and 18 we all become silent film actresses. Apart from being a movie that featured so many fantastic action sequences, the overall feel of The Crow was very dark, gothic, and industrial and even though I was a preppy kid, it spoke to me as an angsty teenage boy. Also the soundtrack featured a handful of grunge bands, which was my entree to the music and even though I didn’t fully get into goth and industrial music I loved everything on the soundtrack. I consider The Crow soundtrack to be one of the best of a great decade for movie soundtracks, right up there with Pulp Fiction, Singles, and Reality Bites.
One of The Crow’s greatest strengths is the cast. For what was essentially a B-movie, a lot of actors delivered very strong performances. Apart from Fun Boy (Fun Boy sucks so hard), all of T-Bird’s crew have strong moments, but T-Bird stands out. He’s the most interesting bad guy in the movie, even more so than Top Dollar, the purported big bad. I want to make it clear that nothing T-Bird does in the movie is redeemable. This is a monster, a murderer and if not an actual rapist somebody who stands by and allows rape to happen. It speaks volumes about David Patrick Kelly’s abilities as an actor that even though he’s garbage you can appreciate his performance. Jon Polito also delivers a great performance as the sleazy pawn shop owner. I didn’t love Top Dollar. If you think about the movie in video game terms he’s the final boss, which means that the ancillary villains carry the movie and ultimately he doesn’t do much, but Michael Wincott does what he can with what he’s given, and if nothing else he has a fantastic voice. The rest of the cast fits so well into the roles they play: Ernie Hudson, Angel David as Skank, Laurence Mason as Tin Tin, Tony Todd, Marco Rodriguez as a pock marked Torres, Anna Levine as Darla, even Bai Ling does what she can with the “exotic witch” role. It’s one of those movies where it feels like every casting choice was the correct one. And then there’s Brandon Lee as Eric.
If you know nothing else about The Crow, you probably know it as the movie that Bruce Lee’s son was killed while shooting. The role is Brandon Lee’s legacy, and as legacies go it’s not a bad one. Brandon Lee revealed so much promise as Eric Draven. He’s believable as an action star and delivers even the most awkward dialogue (mother/morphine again) with conviction. Lee is playing a role where he’s in makeup for 95% of the movie, and it never takes away from his performance. He even pulls off the few scenes where they try to insert jokes (much better than I am in this review). There’s one scene in the movie where he does what I can only describe as a Jim Carrey impression, and whether or not it was intentional, it’s spot on. This is the spiritual fourth Jim Carrey role of 1994.
Today is the 25th anniversary of The Crow’s release, and I think that if two things hadn’t happened it would be looked at as one of the best comic books adaptations of the 90s. The first and most obvious one is Brandon Lee’s accidental death during shooting. It’s impossible for a movie to exist on its own merits when the star of the movie dies while making the movie. Forrest Gump didn’t have to overcome that, and it deserved all the Oscars? There’s no marketing campaign that can distract from the shooting of the star. The other thing that hurt The Crow’s legacy at no fault of its own was the Columbine shootings. The Columbine shooters adopted the black trench coat look of The Crow and the industrial scene, and I think for some it’s difficult to separate the genre from that. If you can strip those two things away, you’re left with a well cast, entertaining supernatural action movie, with a good soundtrack.
If you’ve never seen The Crow you should. It’s absolutely worth your time. Skip the sequels except for maybe City of Angels if it’s easily accessible. Check out the Syfy series long enough to see The Chairman from Iron Chef America as Eric Draven, and remember that it can’t rain all the time.
Have you ever stood abashed with the Devil and felt how awful goodness is? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.