May 23, 1994 -- ``The Crow'' is a spectacular-looking new film that sets new standards for visual style.
``Batman'' and ``Blade Runner'' were films that set the standards for visual style in their day, but ``The Crow'' blows those films right out of the water in terms of visual storytelling.
Now I know there are people who feel that ``Blade Runner'' was the greatest thing since ``Citizen Kane.'' I'm not one of those people, nor do I really understand the whole phenomena of cult films, or the obsessive loyalty of their fans, but I do acknowledge the appeal of films like ``Blade Runner'' and ``Highlander,'' so chill, O.K.?
``Batman'' and ``Blade Runner'' both had a terrific set designs. While the set design of ``The Crow'' is not nearly as elaborate, it is very effective. What makes ``The Crow'' so extraordinary, however, is the kinetic camera work, the brilliant use of color and lighting and the very flashy editing. ``Batman'' and ``Blade Runner'' are positively slow moving compared to ``The Crow,'' which moves with breath-taking fluid grace.
Director Alex Proyas, primarily a director of music videos, makes this film look like one long music video. Consequently, the sound track, featuring Pantera, Violent Femmes, Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and The Cure, is an integral part of the film. The music works beautifully with the images, as one might expect, given the director's background.
Cinemaphotographer Dariusz Wolski has captured some real magic on this film. Especially impressive are the trolley shots of Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) running across rooftops in the dark and rain. Dove Hoenig and Scott Smith do some spectacularly inventive editing, especially during fight scenes.
Lee's performance is haunting, especially considering the fact that he was killed in the last days of filming and the story is about a man who comes back from the dead. Lee's physical grace and his eerie screen presence really are striking.
Another big plus is the performance of Ernie Hudson (``Ghostbusters'' and ``No Escape'') as the tough-talking, soft-hearted cop Albrecht who befriends Lee. The villains, led by Michael Wincott as Top Dollar, are the meanest, nastiest bunch of killers you'd ever want to see. They richly deserve what they get.
The story is based on a comic book hero who comes back from the dead to avenge his death and that of his fiancee. Some of the characters in the film, especially the villains are good examples of comic book villains: sinister, mean and larger than life.
The film is not long on character development. The story is very simple, but then the film was meant to be a kind of cinematic comic book, and it does achieve that effect very successfully.
This film is not for everyone. It is very dark. It is extremely violent. It paints a very bleak picture of humanity. It is perhaps the ultimate triumph of form over content, but it also provides a cinematic experience that is quite unforgettable. It rates an A.
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