The Coolidge Corner Theatre’s “Comics on Film: The ’90s” series has rolled out some long-forgotten howlers in recent weeks, with late night screenings of everything from Alec Baldwin as “The Shadow” to Dolph Lundgren’s “Punisher,” among the lowlights from a decade that was not particularly kind to comic book fans at the multiplex. But something important sets apart this evening’s selection, director Alex Proyas’ 1994 adaptation of James O’Barr’s “The Crow” — it’s a really good movie.
“All of the other films we’ve explored this month have been so far over the top, full of terrible CGI or simply fail to get to the core of the characters they’re depicting,” explains Coolidge After Midnight programmer Mark Anastasio, “This is the one ’90s comic book movie that holds up as being both an excellent film and true to the essence of its source material.”
“The Crow” was notoriously almost shelved after a freak accident involving an improperly loaded prop gun killed star Brandon Lee during filming. Viewed today, the film remains shrouded in an eerie poignancy, revolving as it does around his character’s murder and resurrection as a ghostly, supernatural figure seeking vengeance. But the son of screen legend Bruce Lee delivers an enormously warm and charismatic performance that considerably lightens up a very grim picture.
“Brandon would’ve gone on to be as big a movie star as his father,” Anastasio speculates. “No doubt, they’d both be legends had he survived.”
At a time when action cinema buffs were still stuck passing around Chinatown bootlegs of John Woo and Ringo Lam shoot-em-ups, “The Crow” was one of the first mainstream American movies to incorporate the balletic, martial arts-inspired gunplay that was all the rage then in Hong Kong cinema. This intricately choreographed, trigger-happy style has recently been revived in the “John Wick” films — whose director, Chad Stahelski, just so happened to work as Brandon Lee’s stunt double on “The Crow.”
Perhaps even more influential were the film’s gloomy atmospherics, killer soundtrack and a teen-friendly goth sensibility that launched a thousand Hot Topics. Or, as Anastasio describes it: “In 1994, I was in middle school and wearing a black Nine Inch Nails T-shirt every day of my life. As soon as I saw this film, as a spooky, angry kid, I immediately took to it for both its visual style and brutal, revenge-themed plot. My friends and I wore out multiple copies on VHS.”
If you go
Feb. 17, 11:59 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard St., Brookline