While it’s nothing to crow about, “The Crow: Salvation” is a reasonably suspenseful, adequately made programmer that’s true to the tradition of a lone avenger out to raise hell and clear his name. Third pic in the franchise also carries the comforting message for youth that just because your sister was brutally murdered, the wrong guy fried for the crime and your beloved dad had a hand in the tragedy doesn’t mean you can’t find the joy in life and live every day to the fullest. While the previous installment in the series was completely for the birds, this one should fly on video and cable.
As supporters and opponents of the death penalty rally outside a prison, Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius) plays chess in his cell with his lawyer. He’s to be electrocuted tonight — his 21st birthday — for the murder three years earlier of his girlfriend, Lauren (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), via 53 stab wounds with a very large knife.
The authorities say they never found a trace of the man with the chevron-style scars zigzagging up his forearm, who, Alex insists to the last, planted the murder weapon in his truck. So Alex is put to death — in a scene almost as vivid as the electrocution-gone-wrong in “The Green Mile” — and wheeled to the morgue with the melted leather mask still fused to his face.
Kaboom! Alex’s guardian crow arrives, and, proving you can’t keep a good man down, Alex resuscitates. When he claws off the gooey mask, he’s left with strange Pagliacci-meets-a-raccoon burn marks that prevent him from being recognized. After it’s established that no apparent harm can come to Alex in his new incarnation, the crow leads him out of prison and to the evidence room in Metro Police headquarters, where he removes the knife and a handy list of witnesses who testified against him.
Alex, who is none too pleased about being “dead but not dead,” works his way down the list in search of the guy with the scarred arm. What he learns along the way — contact with certain objects causes informative flashbacks to surge forth — convinces Lauren’s sister, Erin (Kirsten Dunst), that Alex, formerly referred to as “Lauren’s dirtball boyfriend,” got a bum rap after all.
Mabius is calmly and wryly effective as the undead superhero who isn’t averse to blowing stuff up in billowing flames but always finds a serene moment to leave his crow-image signature in blood or ash. Fred Ward as a police chief and William Atherton as the girls’ dad add welcome heft to the proceedings, with the former managing lines like “The dead can come back with sufficient motivation — I’ve studied this phenomenon.” Dunst is fine as the femme lead.
Transitions to and from flashbacks are moderately stylish. Set entirely at night, the adequately paced pic, shot on location in Salt Lake City, Utah, has a pleasingly low-budget demeanor but summons efficient f/x artillery when needed. Production design has a comic-book feel only in certain scenes, and the intelligently chosen hard-rock score is present only in patches (but served up full force over closing credits).