The Crow (4K UHD)

Director: Alex Proyas
Screenplay: David J. Schow and John Shirley (based on the comic book series and comic strip by James O’Barr)
Stars: Brandon Lee (Eric Draven), Rochelle Davis (Sarah Mohr), Ernie Hudson (Sgt. Albrecht), Michael Wincott (Top Dollar), Bai Ling (Myca), Sofia Shinas (Shelly Webster), Anna Thomson (Darla Mohr), David Patrick Kelly (T-Bird), Angel David (Skank), Laurence Mason (Tin Tin), Michael Massee (Funboy), Tony Todd (Grange), Jon Polito (Gideon)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1994
Country: U.S.
The Crow 4K UHD
The Crow

If one were to take all the guitar-driven, angst-ridden alt-rock songs of the early 1990s, mash them up, and turn them into a movie, that movie would be The Crow. Full of dark skies, foreboding urban streets, smoke, fire, anger, and leather, it is a Goth-rock fantasy of eternal love and righteous vengeance made tragically immortal by the death of its star, Brandon Lee, during production. The son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who himself died tragically young of a cerebral edema a month before Enter the Dragon (1973) made him an international icon, Brandon’s accidental on-set death by a mismanaged prop gun propelled the film into a kind of morbid infamy, although it has enough sturm und drang to stand on its own.

The story takes place over a few days in an unnamed city that appears to be the descendent of the hellish future Los Angeles in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). Perpetually awash in rain and smog, this city is overrun by a criminal gang headed by the gravel-voiced Top Dollar (Michael Wincott), who sends his anarchic minions out into the streets every night before Halloween to set fires, thus creating a nefarious new holiday known as Devil’s Night. Top Dollar’s henchmen—T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), Skank (Angel David), Tin Tin (Laurence Mason), and Funboy (Michael Massee)—pay a visit one night to Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancée Shelly (Sofia Shinas), who had the gall to complain about the condition of their apartment. She is raped and beaten into a coma, and he is shot and flung out the window to his death.

Shelly dies from her injuries at the hospital, and exactly a year later Eric emerges from his grave, tearing out of the ground with the assistance of a supernatural crow, which is described in the voice-over narration by Sarah (Rochelle Davis), an adolescent girl Eric and Shelly befriended, as a mystical carrier of the dead who can bring a soul back when “something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest.” In his resurrected state, Eric is imbued with near indestructibility, and he paints his face into that of a vengeful mime—white skin and streaks of black down his eyes and across his mouth—that give him the appearance of a monster even though he is a bringer of justice against those who are so violent and powerful that literally nothing can be done, least of all by Sgt. Albrecht (Ernie Hudson), a police officer who, along with Sarah, represents one of the few vestiges of human decency in the film.

Much has been made of Brandon Lee’s presence in the film, which is undeniably enhanced by his death, which turns his on-screen death and resurrection into a kind of meta-cinematic fantasy. One has to wonder what the film might have been like had he not been killed, which is a fair question even as it is also unfair to the strength of Lee’s performance (when he was killed, he had finished virtually all of his work on the film, so only a handful of shots had to be created with stand-ins and digital insertion of his face). As Eric, Lee plays not so much a character as an idea, a romantic-Goth revenge fantasy of ultimate retribution in which good, clad in black leather and twisted make-up, deals righteous violence to the truly corrupt and horrific. The screenplay by David J. Schow and John Shirley from the comic book series by James O’Barr, provides Eric with an armament of philosophical one-liners and dark observations that imbue his violence with a sense of righteous purpose. When one character is sent hurtling to his fiery death while repeating a poetic line about “how awful goodness is,” it summarizes the film’s dark moral center.

The Crow was the directorial debut of Alex Proyas, an Australian who had made a name for himself in music videos alongside other emerging directors like David Fincher and Michael Bay (although, ironically, he didn’t direct any moody alt-rock videos, instead creating visuals to go along with song by Yes, Rick Springfield, and Sting). If the look of the film doesn’t stand out like it once did, it is only because there have been so many imitators in its wake, including several sub-par sequels and a recent remake (which I have not seen). Proyas was working simultaneously on his next film, the sci-fi/noir mashup Dark City (1998), and you can see how the two films feed and play off each other visually and tonally. The latter film is a much more complex narrative with deeper and more profound ideas. The Crow is a much simpler affair, using visual style and a pounding soundtrack littered striking guitar riffs from Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, and Rage Against the Machine, to dress up a simple revenge story that pushes hard and effectively on our primal buttons. At times it is probably uglier than it needs to be (I am thinking particularly of Top Dollar’s sadistic girlfriend played by Bai Ling, who smacks a bit too much of the evil Asian stereotype), but as a whole The Crow works its grungy magic to impressive effect.

The Crow 30th Anniversary 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Copy

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • Subtitles English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Audio commentary by director Alex Proyas
  • Audio commentary by producer Jeff Most and screenwriter John Shirley
  • Shadows & Pain: Designing The Crow three-part retrospective documentary
  • “Sideshow Collectibles: An Interview with Edward R. Pressman” featurette
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • “A Profile on James O’Barr” featurette
  • Extended scenes
  • Deleted footage montage
  • Trailer
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateMay 7, 2024

    Paramount’s new 4K UHD of The Crow is most impressive and will certainly be a delight to fans who have been holding onto their copies of Lionsgate’s 2011 Blu-ray for all these years. The release is advertised as coming from a “a new 4K restoration,” which most likely means a 4K of the original camera negative. The Crow has a distinct look that was unique at the time (although it has become so ubiquitous in subsequent years that many will mistake it for common) that relies on a heavily desaturated palette (Proyas and cinematographer ???? had originally wanted to shoot most of it in black and white). There is a strong presence of intensely saturated color in the flashback sequences, and they really pop on this transfer, making a particularly strong contrast (as intended) with the rest of the film. The overall contrast and detail in the image is excellent throughout, providing appropriately inky black levels and intense shadow detail that play up the film’s supernatural-noir aesthetic. There is a nice presence of grain in the image, and it looks beautiful in motion, with a solid filmlike presence. The audio is equally admirable, with a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround mix that replicates the original theatrical experience (The Crow was an early six-channel 35mm release). The soundstage is wide and active, with plenty of surround action for both the slam-bang action sequences and the angsty alt-rock. It creates an impressively immersive experience throughout.

    The supplements are a mix of the old and the new. Those who know the film will be glad to see that the vast majority of supplements from the previous editions are here and accounted for, including two audio commentaries, one by director Alex Proyas and one by producer Jeff Most and screenwriter John Shirley. Also making a repeat appearance are a vintage behind-the-scenes featurette (16 min.), a featurette on The Crow comic book creator James O’Barr (33 min.), three extended scenes that run close to 12 minutes total, a montage of roughly 5 minutes of deleted footage, and a trailer. The new additions are add quite bit to the package, starting with Shadows & Pain: Designing The Crow, a new three-part restrospective featurette based around interviews with production designer Alex McDowell: in “Angels All Fire: Birth of the Legend” (7 min.) McDowell talks about the film’s visual look and use of music; in “On Hallowed Ground: The Outer Realm” (8 min.) he elaborates on the film’s cinematography, set design, and the use of various visual effects; and in “Twisted Wreckage: The Inside Spaces (10 min) he talks more about the sets, principal photography, and Brandon Lee. In addition, we also get a 2022 episode of Sideshow Collectibles (13 min.) in which Sideshow host Paul Hernandez interviews producer Edward R. Pressman about a collectible Eric Draven 1/6th scale figurine.

    Copyright © 2024 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Paramount Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)

    James Kendrick

    James Kendrick offers, exclusively on Qnetwork, over 2,500 reviews on a wide range of films. All films have a star rating and you can search in a variety of ways for the type of movie you want. If you're just looking for a good movie, then feel free to browse our library of Movie Reviews.

    © 1998 - 2024 - All logos and trademarks in this site are the property of their respective owner.