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Better than They Told You - 'The Crow: Salvation' (2000)

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The Crow: Salvation (2000)

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A story of resurrection and revenge? You've heard that one before. Or have you?

The Crow: Salvation is the second semi-sequel to the cult classic The Crow. Crucified for lack of originality, bad dialogue and cheesy performances, will it rise from the dead and perch on your short list of enjoyable fantasy action thrillers?

Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius) celebrates his twenty-first birthday by playing chess with what seems to be his only friend: his lawyer Peter Walsh (Grant Shaud). Alex sits on death row, scheduled for termination in only a few hours for the murder of his girlfriend, Lauren Randall (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). Peter and Alex had attempted to build a case around a mysterious man with a strange scar to no avail.

Despite his proclaiming his innocence right up until the end, Alex's fate seems certain. We in the audience know this, of course, because how can you have a Crow movie without a dead protagonist?

Just as the switch is flipped on the electric chair, Alex gets a glimpse of the same scar he swore he saw the night of the murder. His death comes heaped atop a pile of pain and emotional anguish that guarantees his return from the afterlife. He awakens in the morgue and seems to understand much of what is happening to him, allowing himself to enjoy the newfound powers for a bit before getting down to business.

So begins a procedural revenge plot as Alex collects clues and hunts down the real killer of his beloved Lauren. Alex tracks and avenges his way through those peripherally responsible for the deaths of both Lauren and himself, aiding and defending the helpless along his way.

Despite the film being well past the expiration date for spoiler warnings, I won't say any more about the plot because I want you to experience the story a purely as possible. I will add, though, that The Crow: Salvation takes risks in its subject matter and execution (excuse the pun), questioning the death penalty and the American justice system.

Eric Mabius turns in a moving performance as our wayward soul. Having been poor and powerless, looked down upon in life, he revels in the power he acquires in death, something I find very realistic in spite of the mechanics themselves being completely founded in fantasy. The character is required to exhibit a wide range of emotions that Mabius performs admirably, easily generating pathos.

Kirsten Dunst, while with far less screen time than the movie poster might indicate, has a role of great importance as well. Her portrayal of Erin Randall, the heartbroken younger sister of the murdered Lauren, showcases the sorrow and grief caused by her circumstances along with a wrought-iron strength at the core of the character.

The villains in the story are, in my opinion, even more dastardly than Top Dollar and his crew in the original film, due to their motivations and actions. As each is revealed, this sentiment intensifies.

The visuals are minimalist but well utilized and atmospheric. Sets and miniatures add to the fantastical storybook feel of the film while the special effects do their job effectively and don't distract from what's most important, the story and characters. Another visual element is the way in which the director chose to show us rather than tell us about so much that went on in the film. We aren't "told" the villains are evil; it's demonstrated. We see Eric's anguish and ecstasy rather than hearing him talk about it. This is a movie that must be watched closely to be best appreciated.

Violence in this sort of film is something that needs to be performed well and with restraint to avoid dulling the senses of the viewer. The killings that occur in The Crow: Salvation are gruesome and meaningful. Each bad guy Alex kills grants a moment of release and each time he's attacked the tension grows, wondering if and when he'll finally succumb.

In some ways, this is the Batman movie I waited for and never got: a grieving vigilante methodically stalking his prey across an R-rated urban wasteland. The Crow: Salvation is a beautiful, simple fantasy film that rivals the original and in a few ways might even surpass it.

With nothing wrong with this film, and plenty that is right, I recommend watching it at any time, although if you're after a Halloween flick, this is it.

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