The Crow 3: Salvation (2003) Movie Review

It’s amazing how a movie with the pedigree of The Crow: Salvation (or Crow 3) could fall so low. The entire franchise (there has been 3 in the series) is based on a comic book by James O’Barr, who drew the series in the ’80s. The first movie, starring the late Brandon Lee (who died during filming) was almost perfect. It remains the only film that could be called a semi-faithful adaptation of O’Barr’s vision. That isn’t to say it didn’t have a lot of problems, which it did, most of which stem from the fact that the filmmakers were unable to see the simplicity of O’Barr’s story. Instead of adapting what O’Barr did, they turned the movie into an elaborate revenge fantasy involving capitalism and other such nonsense.

Yet it can be said that the first movie tried, and succeeded in spots, to bring O’Barr’s poetic and lyrical story of vengeance and bloodshed to the big screen. The second movie didn’t bother with the poetry, but was at least stylish and atmospheric. Director Bharat Nalluri’s Crow 3 shows what can happen when you slowly strip away the very things that made a concept great to begin with and “go your own way.” This direct-to-video sequel is, to be very candid, an embarrassment. I can imagine O’Barr pulling his hair out now, cursing the day he sold his creation to the soulless hellhounds of Hollywood.

Crow 3’s crow-to-be is Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius), who is having a good-news bad-news kind of day: he’s turning 21, which means he can now buy beer, but he’s also about to be executed for the brutal slaying of his girlfriend! The execution goes as planned and poor Alex is fried for a murder he didn’t commit. Nary a couple of hours pass before a mysterious crow resurrects Alex from the freezer where his body is kept after execution. Spurred on by the guidance of the crow, a now super-powered Alex must find the crooked cops who murdered his girlfriend and framed him, and his only clue is that one of the murderers has an odd scar along one arm.

Even for anyone who has never seen Crow or Crow 2, Crow 3 will come across as a mundane and uninspired fluff that should never have been made. What passes for the “reasons” behind Lauren’s murder is a muddled and uninteresting mess, which is not a good thing when it’s the sole reason your hero comes back from the grave.

Writer Chip Johannessen couldn’t even make us slightly interested about poor Alex and his love affair with the rich but troubled Lauren. Not only does Alex return from the grave while in the prison freezer mere hours after his execution, but no one at the prison seems especially bothered that a guy wearing a prison jumpsuit and who looks like Alex Corvis just escaped from a maximum security prison. There is no manhunt for the escapee and the police don’t even know about it until much later on. Who runs that prison, Laurel and Hardy’s cousins? This is just one minor (although gaping) plot hole. The film is filled with such inconsistencies, and even for a movie about a guy who comes back from the grave with powers, grossly incompetent and lazy writing is still incompetent and lazy writing.

Even the usually reliable Kirsten Dunst can’t outrun this travesty of a movie. Dunst gives an overwrought performance as the murdered girl’s sister that reminds everyone she’s still just a teenager. (She was about 18 at this time.) Alex Corvis walks around as the crow with the help of some eyeliners and smeared lipstick and still wearing the prison jumpsuit. This is apparently enough to fool everyone, since no one recognizes him immediately, as they should have. (Once again I should remind you that this guy was just executed a few hours ago and that everyone was there to witness it first hand and that he’s been on the news more times than O.J. Simpson.) In fact, even after Erin recognizes Alex, she doesn’t seem the least bit bothered that she’s talking to someone who was just electrocuted a few hours ago in front of her.

The real fault of Crow 3’s immense failure goes to director Bharat Nalluri, who seems incapable of making any scene slightly interesting. Even if the writing is atrocious, a good director can still inject some excitement into a film with sheer talent and creative camerawork. Look at Crow 2, which was an exact replica of Crow, but with different characters, a different city, and a different victim that returns as the crow. Crow 2, for all of its faults, managed to showcase an eerie and atmospheric film, complete with adrenaline-pumping soundtrack and enough exciting action to keep one occupied. As another example of Crow 3’s incompetence, the filmmakers don’t even bother with a half-decent soundtrack. The music is just as dreadfully dull and uninspired as the rest of the film.

Nalluri and Crow 3 seems intent to turn the Crow into a janitor. There is not one scene in the entire movie where the crow looks “cool” or makes you go “wow.” In fact, the crow seems so human that instead of just disappearing into thin air, he has to scurry away like a rat to do the “now you see me, now you don’t” maneuver that was used so effective in the previous two movies. And this guy has just returned from the dead and has super powers! How could anyone possibly foul up such a great concept? Nalluri found a way.

The complete lack of success in Crow 3 isn’t the fault of Eric Mabius (Alex), who had the decks stacked against him from the very beginning. The young actor is actually very good and likeable, but unfortunately he’s stuck in a terrible film and taking directions from a director who shouldn’t be directing go-cart traffic. Nalluri and writer Chip Johannessen either have no idea what the Crow movies are about, or they just don’t care. Either way, Nalluri’s direction has as much excitement as watching a cgi crow’s eyeball in tight close-up. Which, incidentally, is the only decent scene in the entire film.

As an example of the “they just don’t get it” aspect of Crow 3’s failure, the crooked cops are led by a crooked police Captain who (get this) figures out that if he tricks the Crow into believing that he’s killed the man with a scar (who Alex blames for the frame-up) then Alex’s crow powers will go away and he (the Captain) can then kill the Crow! Mind you, this great leap of insight is coming from a Police Captain who doesn’t know a single thing about the Crow or the Crow myth. And yet somehow he’s able to figure out this “mythical link” between Alex and the crow entity just like that. Gee, I guess the police Academy is teaching some pretty far out stuff nowadays, huh?

Bharat Nalluri (director) / James O’Barr (comic book), Chip Johannessen (screenplay)
CAST: Kirsten Dunst …. Erin Randall
William Atherton …. Nathan Randall
Debbie Fan …. Barbara Chen
Eric Mabius …. Alex Corvis
Grant Shaud …. Peter

Buy The Crow 3: Salvation on DVD