Last weekend, director Alex Proyas' new film, "Gods of Egypt," was released in theaters. The ridiculously overblown CGI action flick has already joined an ever-growing list of mediocre blockbusters that have received disappointing box office returns and intense critical backlash. If you are someone who has already seen "The Witch," "Deadpool," "Kung Fu Panda 3" or even "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens," you know there was absolutely no reason to have gone to the movies this past weekend. When in doubt, however, Netflix is never a bad alternative, and it just so happens that Proyas' initial claim to fame is available for streaming on your laptop or TV. So rather than subject yourself to what has been labeled a "God-awful" mess of a movie, plop on the couch, shut all the lights off and immerse yourself into the world of one of the biggest cult classics ever made... "The Crow."
On Devil's Night in the crime-infested streets of Detroit, Shelley Webster is raped and beaten to death by a low-level street gang. Upon entering the horrific scene, her fiancé, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), is shot by the gang and thrown out of a window to his death. One year later, Eric is awakened by a crow tapping on his gravestone. Bestowed with new life and invincibility, Eric vows to exact vengeance upon the men who raped and murdered his dearly beloved.
Thematically, "The Crow" doesn't really try to distinguish itself from other revenge thrillers; its premise is as bare-bones as it gets. What the film boasts so beautifully is the richly detailed world it creates. Proyas is sure to keep viewers engaged in Eric's quest for blood-drenched retribution, but his primary focus is set on absorbing his audience into the film's stylized setting. Detroit, which is essentially Gotham City on acid here, exists in eternal shadow, dominated by blacks, grays and occasional bursts of blazing red. Structurally, the city stands as something ripped straight out of a Marilyn Manson fever dream; characters are clad in leather, sport long dark hair and ferociously strum electric guitars. This punk-rock fantasy is also injected with imagery inspired by old Gothic fiction, creating a neo-noir landscape that is both unsettling and alluring. It is a world without remorse, without mercy and without hope.
Whatever hope the good cops and innocent lives of this city have left is kindled by the resurgence of Eric Draven. Lee's final performance (he was accidentally shot during the film's production) is one of unbridled passion and intensity. Other actors have since taken over the role in successive incarnations, but it is extremely difficult to imagine any of them living up to Lee's enduring legacy. Much like Batman, Draven turns the city's unforgiving nature against its criminal inhabitants, but unlike the Dark Knight, who is able to remove his fearful facade, Draven permanently smears it on his face, becoming nothing more than a ghost of his former self. It's not a very dynamic role, but Lee gives it his all every single minute he is on screen.
Proyas would later go on to use his exceptional world-building talents in his subsequent picture, "Dark City" (which is still his best work). With "The Crow," you see the beginning of what looked to be a promising career, but little did we know that this once visionary auteur would eventually soil his name by casting white actors as Egyptian gods in a movie that looks more or less like a video game. Nevertheless, "The Crow" still stands as a wonderfully stylized thriller dripping with atmosphere and as a unique staple of neo-noir cinema.