The Crow (1994 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alex Proyas|
|Based on||The Crow
by James O'Barr
|Music by||Graeme Revell|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$50.7 million|
The Crow is a 1994 American fantasy action film directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley, and starring Brandon Lee in his final film appearance. Based on James O'Barr's 1989 comic book of the same name, it tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge his murder and death of his fiancée.
The lead actor, Brandon Lee, was accidentally killed on the set during filming by a defective blank. Unfinished scenes that were to feature him were dealt with by rewrites and digital special effects. The film is dedicated to Lee and his fiancée, Eliza.
Despite the several production setbacks due to Lee's death, The Crow was well-received critically for its unique visual style, premise, and its tribute to the deceased actor. The film opened at the top of the box office and attained a strong cult following.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2013)|
On October 30, during the annual Devil's Night crime spree in Detroit, Michigan where hundreds of buildings across the city are set on fire, Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) is at the scene of a crime, where Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) has been beaten and raped, and her fiancé, guitarist Eric Draven (Lee), has been killed. The couple were to be married the next day, on Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl, Sarah (Rochelle Davis), whom Shelly and Eric cared for; her mother, Darla, is a drug addict who ignores her. Albrecht tells her everything will be okay and that Shelly will be fine.
A year later, Sarah visits Eric's and Shelly's graves. As she leaves the cemetery a crow lands on Eric's headstone and taps it. That night, Eric awakens from death and climbs out of his grave, wracked with convulsions. Eric follows the crow through the streets of Detroit to his old apartment, finding it derelict. He is met by his cat, Gabriel, who remembers his old master. Eric experiences flashbacks of his own death, remembering that he and Shelly were murdered by local thugs T-Bird, Tin-Tin, Funboy, and Skank, who work for a gang boss named Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) and his lover/half-sister Myca (Bai Ling). Eric swings out the window he was thrown out of, piercing his hands on shards of glass. He sees his wounds heal immediately. He replaces his burial clothes with a dark, imposing costume and paints his face in a parody of a porcelain harlequin mask, decorating his lips and eyes with black, scar-like slashes. Guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly's deaths.
Eric learns that he can see what the crow sees telepathically. The crow helps Eric locate Tin-Tin, and they engage in a one-on-one street fight after which Eric kills Tin-Tin with his own knives. Eric takes Tin-Tin's coat, leaving a large crow-shaped bloodstain on the wall of the alley as his calling card. He goes to Gideon (Jon Polito)'s pawn shop where Tin-Tin pawned Shelly's engagement ring. Eric forces his way into the shop, then forces Gideon to return the ring and interrogates him about Tin-Tin's associates. Gideon tells him that they hang out at a club called The Pit and that Funboy lives upstairs. Eric starts throwing rings at Gideon, telling him that each one is a life he helped destroy. Gideon pleads for his life, and Eric lets him live to warn the rest of the gang. Eric blows up the shop by firing a shotgun loaded with rings into a puddle of spilled gasoline.
Eric meets Albrecht at the scene of the explosion and calls out his name which surprises Albrecht, who does not remember or recognize him. Eric asks if he knows Shelly Webster. Albrecht answers that she is dead and tells him to sit at the curb. He turns away, distracted by looters, and Eric vanishes. Later, Sarah leaves The Pit on her skateboard and is nearly hit by a passing taxi when Eric saves her, hiding his identity.
Eric finds Funboy getting high on morphine in an apartment with Darla. As he is jokingly talking to Funboy, Funboy shoots him in the hand, which heals itself. After shooting Eric several times, Funboy is injured and passes out. After Eric drags him into the shower, he confronts a hysterical Darla, grabbing her arm and showing her the reflection of her track marks in the mirror as the morphine pushes its way back out of her arm. Eric tells her to quit drugs in order to be a good mother to Sarah. Seeing Darla fleeing the bar, Top Dollar's bodyguard Grange (Tony Todd) goes upstairs to investigate, finding Funboy dead with syringes stabbed into his chest.
Eric visits Albrecht at his apartment. They discuss Eric and Shelly's murder and Albrecht relates that he watched as Shelly suffered for 30 hours before dying, and that he was demoted for asking too many questions about the crime. Eric touches Albrecht's head, and all the pain and memories of Shelly's death are transferred to Eric. Meanwhile, Gideon meets with Top Dollar and Myca, and passes on Eric's warning. Not believing Gideon's story, Top Dollar stabs him through the neck and then shoots him.
As T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly) and Skank (Angel David) stop at a convenience store, Eric kidnaps T-Bird before leading police on a high-speed pursuit through Detroit. Skank follows the pair in a stolen Yugo but is hit by a pursuing police car. Eric drives T-Bird to the docks, then kills him with pyrotechnics while a horrified Skank watches in the distance. Eric leaves a fiery symbol in the shape of a crow burning at the scene.
The next morning, Sarah and Darla begin repairing their relationship. Sarah, having realized Eric's identity, goes to his old apartment and tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric explains that, although he cannot be friends with her now that he is dead, he still cares for her and asks her to take care of Gabriel. After questioning a now-paranoid Skank, Top Dollar and Myca learn more about Eric's existence and his actions. They hold a meeting with their associates where they discuss new plans for their annual Devil's Night crime spree. Eric arrives at the meeting, looking for Skank, and a massive gunfight ensues. Top Dollar escapes with Myca and Grange, while Eric kills everyone in the room and throws Skank out a window to his death.
Having supposedly finished his quest, Eric returns to his grave where he sees Sarah. She says goodbye to him and he gives her Shelly's engagement ring. She is then abducted by Grange, who takes her into a nearby church where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Through his telepathic link to the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to the church to rescue her. Grange shoots the crow as it flies into the church, causing Eric to lose his immortality. Just after Top Dollar shoots and wounds Eric, Albrecht arrives, intending to pay his respects to Eric. During a shootout Grange is killed and Albrecht is wounded. Myca grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power for herself. Top Dollar ties Sarah up and climbs the bell tower.
Pursuing Top Dollar, Eric encounters Myca. As she is about to shoot Eric, the crow escapes Myca's grip and pecks out her eyes, causing her to fall down the bell tower to her death. Eric reaches the roof of the church and fights Top Dollar; due to Eric's weakened condition, Top Dollar gains the upper hand. While Eric is down, Top Dollar admits ultimate responsibility for what happened to Eric and Shelly. As Top Dollar is about to kill him, Eric lunges forward and telepathically gives him the 30 hours of pain that Shelly suffered. An overwhelmed Top Dollar falls off the roof of the church to be fatally impaled on the horns of a gargoyle. Eric saves Sarah and tells her to stay with Albrecht until help arrives. Eric makes his way to Shelly's grave. As he succumbs to his injuries, he is approached by Shelly's spirit - reunited in death, knowing that both will be able to rest in peace.
Sarah visits the cemetery and sees that Eric and Shelly's graves lie undisturbed. The crow, perched on Eric's headstone, gives her Shelly's engagement ring before soaring over the city and into the night.
- Brandon Lee as Eric Draven/The Crow
- Michael Wincott as Top Dollar
- Ernie Hudson as Sgt. Albrecht
- Rochelle Davis as Sarah
- Bai Ling as Myca
- David Patrick Kelly as T-Bird
- Angel David as Skank
- Jon Polito as Gideon
- Tony Todd as Grange
- Sofia Shinas as Shelly Webster
- Michael Massee as Funboy
- Laurence Mason as Tin-Tin
- Anna Levine as Darla
- Bill Raymond as Mickey
- Marco Rodríguez as Torres
Death of Brandon Lee
In the scene in which Lee was accidentally shot, Lee’s character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee's character fires a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 629 revolver at Lee as he walks into the room. A previous scene using the same gun had called for inert dummy cartridges fitted with bullets, but no powder or primer, to be loaded in the revolver. For close-up scenes which utilize a revolver, where the bullets are clearly visible from the front, and do not require the gun to actually be fired, dummy cartridges provide a more realistic appearance than blank rounds, which have no bullet. Instead of purchasing commercial dummy cartridges, the film's prop crew, hampered by time constraints, created their own by pulling the bullets from live rounds, dumping the powder charge then reinserting the bullets. However, they unknowingly left the live percussion primer in place at the rear of the cartridge. At some point during filming the revolver was apparently discharged with one of these improperly-deactivated cartridges in the chamber, setting off the primer with enough force to drive the bullet partway into the barrel, where it became stuck (a condition known as a squib load). The prop crew either failed to notice or failed to recognize the significance of this issue.
In the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be actually fired at Lee from a distance of 12–15 feet, the dummy cartridges were exchanged for blank rounds, which feature a live powder charge and primer, but no bullet, thus allowing the gun to be fired without the risk of an actual projectile. As the production company had sent the firearms specialist home early, responsibility for the guns was given to a prop assistant who was not aware of the rule for checking all firearms before and after any handling. Therefore, the barrel was not checked for obstructions when it came time to load it with the blank rounds. Since the bullet from the dummy round was already trapped in the barrel, this caused the .44 Magnum bullet to be fired out of the barrel with virtually the same force as if the gun had been loaded with a live round, and it struck Lee in the abdomen, mortally wounding him.
He was rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC where he underwent 6 hours of surgery. However, attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and Lee was pronounced dead at 1:03pm on March 31, 1993 at the age of 28. The shooting was ruled an accident.
After Lee's death, the producers were faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with the film. Lee had completed most of his scenes for the film and was scheduled to shoot for only three more days. Sofia Shinas, who had witnessed the accident, did not want to continue and went home to Los Angeles. The rest of the cast and crew, except for Ernie Hudson, whose brother-in-law had just died, stayed in Wilmington. Paramount, who were initially interested in distributing The Crow theatrically (originally a direct-to-video feature), opted out of involvement due to delays in filming and some controversy over the violent content being inappropriate given Lee's death. However, Miramax picked it up with the intention of releasing it in theatres and injected a further $8 million to complete the production, taking its budget to approximately $23 million. The cast and crew then took a break for script rewrites of the flashback scenes that had yet to be completed. The script was rewritten by Walon Green, Rene Balcer and Michael S. Chernuchin, adding narration and new scenes. CGI was used to digitally composite Lee's face onto a stunt double to complete his few remaining scenes.
The Crow was a sleeper hit at the box office. The film opened at no.1 in The United States in 1,573 theaters with $11,774,332 and averaging $7,485 per theater. The film ultimately grossed $50,693,129, above its $23 million budget. It ranked at #24 for all films released in the US in 1994 and 10 for R-rated films released that year.
The Crow was well received by critics and has a "certified fresh" score of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 50 reviews with an average rating of 7 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Filled with style and dark, lurid energy, The Crow is an action-packed visual feast that also has a soul in the performance of the late Brandon Lee." The film also has a score of 71 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 14 critics indicating "Generally favorable reviews."
Reviewers praised the action and visual style. Rolling Stone called it a "dazzling fever dream of a movie", Caryn James writing for The New York Times called it "a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth", and Roger Ebert called it "a stunning work of visual style". The Los Angeles Times praised the movie also.
Lee's death was alleged to have a melancholic effect on viewers; Desson Howe of The Washington Post wrote that Lee "haunts every frame" and James Berardinelli called the film "a case of 'art imitating death', and that specter will always hang over The Crow". Berardinelli called it an appropriate epitaph to Lee, Howe called it an appropriate sendoff, and Ebert stated that not only was this Lee's best film, but it was better than any of his father's (Bruce Lee). Critics generally thought that this would have been a breakthrough film for Lee, although James disagreed. The changes made to the film after Lee's death were noted by reviewers, most of whom saw them as an improvement. Howe said that it had been transformed into something compelling. James, although terming it a genre film, said that it had become more mainstream because of the changes.
The film was widely compared to other films, particularly Tim Burton's Batman movies and Blade Runner. Critics described The Crow as a darker film than the others; Ebert called it a grungier and more forbidding story than those of Batman and Blade Runner, and Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that the generic inner city of Detroit portrayed in The Crow "makes Gotham City look like the Emerald City".
The distinctive features of the film for most critics were the fast-paced action and visual style. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and the production design by Alex McDowell were praised. While the plot and characterization were found to be lacking, these faults were considered to be overcome by the action and visual style. The cityscape designed by McDowell and the production team was described by McCarthy as rendered imaginatively. The film's comic book origins were noted, and Ebert called it the best version of a comic book universe he had seen. McCarthy agreed, calling it "one of the most effective live-actioners ever derived from a comic strip". Critics felt that the soundtrack complemented this visual style, calling it blistering, edgy and boisterous. Graeme Revell was praised for his "moody" score; Howe said that it "drapes the story in a postmodern pall."
Negative reviews of the film were generally similar in theme to the positive ones but said that the interesting and "OK" special effects did not make up for the "superficial" plot, "badly-written" screenplay and "one-dimensional" characters.
In 1995, Graeme Revell won a BMI film music award for his score and the Stone Temple Pilots won the MTV Movie Award for Best Song for "Big Empty". Also at the MTV Movie Awards, the film was nominated for Best Film, and Brandon Lee was nominated for Best Male Performance. The film received four Saturn Award nominations from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, for Best Costumes, Best Director, Best Horror film and Best Special Effects. At the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards the film won Best Wide-Release Film and Brandon Lee won Best Actor.
The original soundtrack album for The Crow features songs from the film, and was a chart-topping album. It included work by The Cure (their song, "Burn", became the film's main theme), The Jesus and Mary Chain, Rage Against the Machine, and Helmet, among many others.
Several groups contributed covers. Nine Inch Nails rendered Joy Division's "Dead Souls", Rollins Band covered Suicide's "Ghost Rider", and Pantera performed Poison Idea's "The Badge". The song "Big Empty" was not the Stone Temple Pilots' original choice for the soundtrack. They first recorded a version of "Only Dying", which they had recorded earlier as Mighty Joe Young in demo form, but it was replaced following Lee's death.
In 1996, a sequel was released, called The Crow: City of Angels. In this film, Vincent Pérez plays Ashe Corven, who, along with his son Danny, is killed by criminals. Ashe is resurrected as a new Crow. The character of Sarah (Mia Kirshner) reappears in this film and assists Ashe. The film was followed by a television series and two direct-to-video sequels, each with a different person as The Crow.
The Crow: Stairway to Heaven was a 1998 Canadian television series created by Bryce Zabel and starring Mark Dacascos in the lead role as Eric Draven, reprising the role originally played by Brandon Lee.
The second sequel, The Crow: Salvation, was released in 2000. Directed by Bharat Nalluri, it stars Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Fred Ward, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe and William Atherton. It is loosely based on Poppy Z. Brite's novel The Lazarus Heart. After its distributor cancelled the intended theatrical release due to The Crow: City of Angels receiving negative critical reception, The Crow: Salvation was released directly to video with mixed reviews.
The third sequel, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, was released in 2005. Directed by Lance Mungia, it stars Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Tito Ortiz, Dennis Hopper, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Danny Trejo. It was inspired by Norman Partridge's novel of the same title. It had a one-week theatrical première on June 3, 2005, at AMC Pacific Place Theatre in Seattle, Washington, before being released to video on July 19, 2005. Like the other sequels, it had a poor critical reception, and it was considered the worst of the four films.
On December 14, 2008, Stephen Norrington announced in Variety that he planned to write and direct a "reinvention" of The Crow. Norrington distinguished between the original and his remake: "Whereas Proyas' original was gloriously gothic and stylized, the new movie will be realistic, hard-edged and mysterious, almost documentary-style." Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media is currently negotiating with Edward R. Pressman for both the film's rights and financing.
Norrington later stepped out of the project and, on April 7, 2011, it was announced that 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo had been chosen to direct the film, which has since been regarded as a reboot. Relativity Media's Tooley will serve as executive producer, while Jose Ibanez, Jon Katz and Jesus de la Vega will serve as co-producers. Bradley Cooper was in talks to play the lead. It was reported on April 20, 2011, that the project is undergoing some legal battles. In late June 2011, Relativity Media announced their plans to continue in mid-lawsuit and had tapped Alex Tse, who co-wrote the film adaptation of Watchmen. In mid-August 2011, it was announced that Cooper had dropped out due to scheduling difficulties and Mark Wahlberg, who was originally in talks for the lead in 2010, is up for the part, with additional rumors of Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling possibly taking the role, as well James McAvoy. In October 2011 it was reported that Fresnadillo had departed the project as well. It was confirmed in January 2012 that Francisco Javier Gutiérrez had signed on to direct the remake, with Edward R. Pressman and Jeff Most on producing duties. On April 1, 2012, it was announced as an April Fools' joke that Skrillex was going to be starring as Eric.
According to Edward R. Pressman, "The original 1994 Crow film holds a special place in my heart. The current film is a 'reinvention' of James O'Barr's graphic novel for the 21st century. We're thrilled to have teamed with director Javier Gutiérrez and screenwriter Jesse Wigutow on this story, which remains true to the core of Eric Draven's plight for revenge. Giving too much away wouldn't be any fun. 'Disorder, chaos, anarchy — now that's fun!'".
On the news of future remakes, O'Barr stated, "[...] I don't have great expectations. I think the reality is, no matter who you get to star in it, or if you get Ridley Scott to direct it and spend 200 million dollars, you're still not gonna top what Brandon Lee and Alex Proyas did in that first ten million dollar movie." On April 19, 2013, it was announced that Tom Hiddleston is in talks to play Eric. That same month, there were reports that Hiddleston is not doing the film but Alexander Skarsgård is being eyed for the part. A week later Skarsgård said he's not attached to the film.
On May 4, 2013, Deadline reported that Luke Evans is cast as Eric Draven. Evans revealed to Superhero Hype that the film would be as faithful as possible to the original. On July 3, 2013, The Crow 's creator James O'Barr is named as the creative consultant of the film. On November 21, 2013, Schmoes Know has reports that Norman Reedus is up for the role of the character "James", and Kristen Stewart was up for the part of Shelly; however, she didn't get the role. In December 2014, the studio hired Corin Hardy to direct the film.  Evans told Den of Geek in an interview that he may not do the film, it was revealed that Evans has dropped out of the film due to other projects. On February 9, 2015, O'Barr told Blastr in an interview that he's interested in Sam Witwer in the role. The film is set to start production in Spring 2015. On February 25, 2015, it was reported that Jack Huston would be starring in the film.  On March 14, 2015, O'Barr has confirmed to Dread Central at The Lexington Comic and Toy Convention that Huston is cast as Draven in the reboot and at a Q&A on the convention, Jessica Brown Findlay is cast as Shelly Webster.
First released onto VHS on September 14, 1994. On October 18, 2011, The Crow was released on Blu-ray. The consensus among high-definition enthusiast sites is that the video and audio quality are excellent.
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