Devil's Night is the night in the city where all hell breaks loose and crime and vandalism are rife. But a year ago, a very serious event occured when rock musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) was brutally murdered by four thugs for reasons he did not even grasp. They also raped and killed his girlfriend Shelly (Sofia Shinas), who was in a coma for over a day before succumbing to her injuries. The first policeman at the scene of the crime - their apartment - was Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson), and even a seasoned officer like him was sickened, especially as Shelly did so much for the community, such as looking after the waif Sarah (Rochelle Davis). Who will stop the thugs now?
Some films are forever to be associated with what happened behind the camera rather than what occured in the finished film, and The Crow was one of those, with the news that star Brandon Lee had died while filming his death scene creating a shock around the world, not least because he had died too young as his father Bruce Lee had done. There were too many horrible ironies about the tragedy, the connections between father and son, the fact that the character's death turned out to be the actor's death, and cruelly the way that such a promising role, one which would have made Lee a true force to be reckoned with in the movies, had seen the end of him.
Those ironies continued once the film was released and we saw the plot, based on the comic book by James O'Barr which he had created as a tribute to his murdered fiancée. That Lee played a man back from the dead to avenge his killing would have been powerful enough knowing the background to the original work, that the movie brought the star to life and preserved him for decades, possibly even centuries to come was as haunting as his performance, which showed that he could have carried far better efforts than the clunky action movies he had made previously; rather than following straight in his father's footsteps as a generic action hero he could have easily branched out as something different from the pack.
All this resonance is impossible to divorce from the experience of watching the production, and it is to the filmmakers' credit that they managed to fashion something out of the footage that they already had, resulting in a more streamlined, almost fable-like simplicity to its tale. Once Eric has been revived and has crawled out of his grave by the power of the crow which follows him about subsequently (how this happens is never explained, adding a sense of enigma), he sets about making with the vigilante moves on the four thugs who took his life, and that of his lover. The romantic connection is emphasised in flashbacks to happier times, but otherwise director Alex Proyas showed a focus on making the imagery as monochrome as possible, a decision which brings to mind the comic it was drawn from.
As well as underlining that funereal mood that the viewer is immersed in from the moment the title appears. This could have gone the other way and turned into a remake of Death Wish with Goth pretensions, and it's uncomfortable to think that Lee's death is what rescued it from that mediocrity, but it's not all down to this. Lee had charisma, and while if you actually concentrate to see how often he appears you'll notice a few stand-ins and the like, his presence is there throughout, compassionate but fierce. To prevent it from becoming just another slasher movie with the killer being the good guy, Draven does find there's someone determined to stop his vengeance, and he is the man who ordered his killing, played with wit and menace by Michael Wincott. There may not be much substance to the narrative if you look at it in the cold light of day, but it echoed with sadness and loss thanks to Lee. Music by Graeme Revell.
Egyptian-born director who grew up in Australia and directed dozens of high-profile music videos and commercials during the 1980s. Proyas's feature debut was the low-budget Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, but it was 1994's The Crow that brought him mainstream success and introduced his dark, stylish take on sci-fi and fantasy. Dark City was a futuristic film noir, while the Asimov-inspired I, Robot was one of 2004's biggest hits and Knowing an effects-filled addition to the popular apocalypse cycle. Also directed the Australian rock comedy Garage Days and much-lambasted fantasy flop Gods of Egypt, which caused him to have a public meltdown.