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‘The Crow: 30th Anniversary Edition’ 4K UHD (Blu-ray review)

Paramount Pictures

Films may become iconic for various reasons – their aesthetic, score, performances, narrative elements and structure, filmmaking ingenuity, or how certain events surrounding the production mythologized them in the annals of film history.

One of the most infamous examples of a film that became mythologized for all the wrong reasons is, of course, The Crow, where Brandon Lee tragically lost his life after being fatally wounded by a prop gun during the filming of the murder of his character Eric Draven in the beginning of the film.

Having filmed nearly all of his scenes at the time of the accident, the decision was made to complete the film with a combination of a body double, digital effects and a restructured approach to filming the remaining scenes that required the presence of Lee’s character, and the film became a financial and critical success that has remained a beloved genre classic since its release 30 years ago.

Seeing Eric Draven return from the grave to avenge the brutal killing of himself and his fiancée could have proved to be a tasteless affair after Lee’s tragic death, however, due to the film’s unique blend of action, romance, and poetic vengeance, the story at the heart of the film has an inherent tenderness that balances the grim violence with delicate emotion in a manner that reinforces why The Crow is able to stand as a testament to Lee’s talents without cheapening the loss of his life during production.

Based on James O’Barr’s 1989 comic book series of the same name, director Alex Proyas’ film adaptation brought to life a richly textured and deeply seedy world where the bad guys reign, mixing a general gothic aesthetic with the grunge aesthetic of the era, creating a nihilistic urban landscape caked in grime and saturated by hopelessness, which works well for both the time when the film was made, just as it makes the film stand out stylistically decades later.

Perhaps only matched by his surreal 1998 masterpiece Dark City, The Crow will always be a standout of Proyas’ career, and the term “lightning in a bottle” also seems fitting, as none of the live action iterations of The Crow that followed ever managed to be as sincerely impactful as the 1994 film, the subsequent entries all failing to tell engaging tales of this mythological avenger.

In Proyas’ The Crow, the violence is tactile, gruesome and creative, but the counterbalance of love prevailing over evil by using the tools of the evil-doers against themselves ensures that the film never seems cruel, no matter how grimly justice is served as a resurrected Eric sets out to have the four killers and their crime lord boss pay the ultimate price for their evil deeds.

At 102 minutes, the film has enough time to set up its world and characters and let them breathe without the pacing ever dragging along, resulting in a solid mix of suspense, worldbuilding and character development that makes this supernatural revenge thriller work exceedingly well even without the added mythology of the tragic death on set.

Extras include two commentary tracks, new featurettes, interview, extended scenes, deleted scene montage, and trailer.

Brandon Lee delivers a truly memorable performance brimming with sadness and righteous anger mixed with sweetness and suitable amounts of humor, and his physical performance further lends his character an immense screen presence that is at once both bold and tender.

As such, thanks to its unique world, excellent soundtrack, and blend of gothic and grunge aesthetics, The Crow deserves its status as an iconic cult classic, and its viewability lies in so much more than it merely being a lament for a talented performer taken much too soon.

Verdict: 10 out of 10.

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