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just bleakly uninspired
on January 2, 2003
"The Crow" is an unremittingly grim and witless movie about the revenge of a dead musician against a ruthless gang of thugs who brutally murdered him and his fiancée. Set in a decayed horror of a city that is supposed to be some horrific cross between Newark and Detroit and the LA of "Blade Runner", "Crow" follows the bviolent mission of EWric Draven as he picks off the killers in the order and manner in which they killed him and his fiancée. Draven's wife-to-be was a community activist seeking to end the reign of terror of an insane arch-criminal named "Top Dollar" - a brutal yet well-spoken thug who burns the city down every year on "Devil's Night", the fiery eve before Halloween. Brought back the very next year, Draven is now impervious to harm (he's already dead) and led to his victims by his avatar - a crow. Along the way, Eric will meet the young and tough Sarah and save her heroin-addicted mother. He will also continually run into a cop named Albrecht (Ernie Hudson). But it's Top Dollar who's Eric's main target.
Though visually spectacular, the grim and thin story weighs the movie down. I'm not for dumbing down serious films, but "Crow" is simply grave without enough nuance for gravity. Draven is immortal - nothing can stop him. He's got eternity to finish up Top Dollar's gang, and you feel like you've endured and eternity before the final cut. Late in the film, Top Dollar's mystic and lover theorizes a vulnerability in Eric's link to the Crow, but by then, who cares? Eric has by then become a robot - "living" only to destroy Top Dollar's thugs - but they've got no identity of their own, and they're dead essentially the moment they appear. The only interesting villain (and the only interesting character in the whole flick) is Top Dollar himself. He struts across the film ready to snatch, possess and destroy it as much as he would the city. With his long hair and gravelly voice, Top Dollar gets the best lines and delivery in the flick. (When Eric and Dollar first meet, in a scene climaxed by Eric's sommersaulting onto a table - guns blazing - Top Dollar dismisses Eric, telling his hired guns that our hero is boring the ... out of him. The trouble is, he's right, and you begin to think the flick is shortchanging Dollar, not Eric). Worse, since Top Dollar's connection to Draven's murder is remote (he gave the orders he never saw carried out), and since Eric seems only capable of returning evil to the evil, there's little expectation of a big payoff. In that, the film does not disappoint. The script gets Top Dollar frightfully close to neutralizing Eric, but by then it's too late for the story to flesh out Eric's vulnerabilities and possibly have him work off the great but otherwise wasted Ernie Hudson.