"People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right."
October 30, Devil's Night, in Detroit. Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) is at the scene of a crime where Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) has been beaten and raped and her fiancé, local musician and guitarist Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), has been murdered, having been stabbed, shot, and thrown out of their apartment window to the streets below. The couple had been planning their wedding for the next day; Halloween. A cop comments darkly, "Who gets married on Halloween?" Albrecht responds, "Nobody."
As he prepares to leave for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl with a skateboard named Sarah (Rochelle Davis) who says she is a friend of Eric and Shelly and that they took care of her. Albrecht tells her that Shelly probably won't survive.
One year later, a crow flies over the dark and rainy landscape of Detroit and lands on the headstone of Eric Draven. It taps at the stone with its beak, awakening Eric from the grave. He climbs out of the ground, trembling and wracked with convulsions. With some confusion, he stands and walks with the crow to his abandoned apartment, finding it in shambles. Memories of the night of his death come back to him as the gang responsible runs through the city, setting fire to it. The faces of the attackers stick in his mind and, bent on vengeance, he changes his clothes and paints his face white in parody of a porcelain harlequin mask he had given Shelly as a gift. He then draws black liner around his eyes and down his cheeks like tears and paints his lips black with glasgow lines reaching out from the corners. Guided by the crow and sharing the crow's high perspective on the city, Eric sets out to avenge his murder and Shelly's death.
The first person he locates is Tin Tin (Laurence Mason), a thug obsessed with knives. Eric engages in one on one combat, discovering in the process that he is immune to harm. He wins the fight by catching a knife and pinning Tin Tin to the wall with it. Eric confronts him about the murders the previous year and Tin Tin laughs in his face, mocking Shelly. Eric finishes him off by stabbing him in each vital organ (in alphabetical order) with his own knives and takes his trench coat, leaving a crow-shaped bloodstain on the wall of the alley. Using Tin Tin's memories, he goes to the pawn shop where Tin Tin sold Shelly's engagement ring. Eric forces the owner, Gideon (Jon Polito), to show him where the ring is located and finds it mixed in a box with dozens of other rings. He lets Gideon live so that he can deliver a message of death to the rest of the gang before he breaks a gas pipe, loads a shotgun with other rings of destroyed lives, and ignites the shop in a massive explosion.
Eric locates the next thug on his list, Funboy (Michael Massee), getting high in an apartment with Sarah's drug-addicted mother, Darla (Anna Levine). Funboy shoots Eric in his hand and Eric mocks him by pretending to scream in pain before showing the hole in his palm heal before his eyes. Frightened, Funboy is easily disarmed by Eric and is shot in the thigh before being injected with an overdose of morphine. Eric then confronts Darla but merely says that morphine is bad for her, taking the drug out of her arm seemingly by magic, and tells her that she should return to her daughter who is waiting for her on the streets.
Albrecht, meanwhile, has been following the deaths of the thugs around town. He doesn't share the rest of the department's view on the killings, thinking of them as more of a blessing than a curse. He even goes so far as to rescue Eric as he flees from choppers after his latest killing, though Eric is quick to disappear afterwards. Upon meeting again later on, Eric explains what he's doing and offers his best reason as to why he's come back. Albrecht tells him what he knows of Shelly's death and reveals that he stayed with her as she suffered through thirty hours of agony before dying. Eric touches Albrecht and receives from him all the pain felt by Shelly during that time.
Gideon goes to Top Dollar (Michael Wincott), the leader of all gangs in Detroit, and warns him about Eric. Top Dollar responds by stabbing Gideon through the throat with a sword, sinking it to the hilt, as his lover/half sister/soothsayer, Myca (Bai Ling), looks on with glee. the crow visits sarah.
Two other members of the gang, T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly) and Skank (Angel David), stop at a convenience store for supplies. Eric sneaks into the car and kidnaps T-Bird while Skank is in the store. Skank runs into the street, gets hit by a car & steals it to follow the pair; he watches as Eric ties T-Bird to the driver's seat of a car with explosives strapped to him & lets the car drive off the pier where it explodes midair and sinks into the harbor. When the police arrive, they discover a fiery symbol in the shape of a crow at the scene.
Meanwhile, Darla tries to reconcile with Sarah by making her breakfast; though Sarah is skeptical at first of her mother's sudden change of heart, she accepts the effort and hugs her. Albrecht's "superior" reams him out just because he can & tells him he's suspended for misconduct.
Sarah goes to Eric's apartment and speaks out to the shadows, feeling that he must be nearby. She tells him that she misses him and Shelly but, when no one responds, goes to leave and says that she figured he wouldn't care anymore. Eric speaks to her, appearing in the window, and tells her that, although they cannot be friends anymore, he still cares about her.
Skank retreats to the gang hideout, rambling wildly about Eric; Sarah & Albrecht bond over their mutual experiences w/ Eric & discuss how he came back.
At the gang hideout, Top Dollar, hardly concerned for T-Bird's fate, is discussing plans for criminal activity on Devil's Night with other associates. Eric crashes the meeting looking for Skank, and proceeds to make fun of everyone in the room. A massive gunfight ensues, while Top Dollar escapes with Myca and his lieutenant, Grange (Tony Todd). Eric easily kills everyone in the room by gun, fists & swords, saving Skank for last, throwing him out the window. The police arrive to find Eric the last man standing; he escapes w/ Albrecht's help.
Top Dollar, Grange, and Myca discuss Eric and his unique abilities. Myca reveals that Eric is invulnerable to harm, but only if his link to the real world, the crow, remains untouched. Realizing that if they kill the crow, they kill Eric, the three of them hatch a plan.
Having killed the last of the four who had murdered him and Shelly, Eric returns to the cemetary and visits Shelly's grave. Sarah meets him there to say goodbye and he gives her Shelly's engagement ring as a necklace. Sarah leaves the cemetary only to be abducted by Grange and taken to a local church where Top Dollar and Myca are hiding out. Through the crow, Eric sees that Sarah is in danger and goes to rescue her. The crow flies inside ahead of him but is sniped by Grange. Eric, not realizing what wounding the crow has done for his own immunity, accosts Top Dollar, saying he'll let him leave if he gives Sarah to Eric. Top Dollar shoots Eric, now no longer invincible, then smacks him around some; Sarah is taken to the upper levels of the church. Albrecht, having gone to the church to pay his respects, realizes what's happening & comes in shooting. He finds Eric on the floor and helps him towards the spiral staircase in the back. The wounded crow is picked up by Myca, who hopes to harness its mystical powers. Albrecht manages to shoot and kill Grange, but not before being wounded. He stays below as Eric ascends the stairs. Myca meets him halfway up, holding the crow at knifepoint, but the crow lunges up and pecks her eyes out, causing her to fall from the stairs to her death.
Eric makes it to the roof where Top Dollar is holding Sarah. He pushes her off the roof though she manages to hold onto some scaffolding as Top Dollar and Eric fight. Distracted for a moment by Sarah's cries for help, Eric is stabbed through the back by Top Dollar who admits to having everything to do with Eric and Shelly's deaths, claiming that nothing goes on in their town without his say-so. He tell Eric that he's enjoyed their sparring & that he'll miss him, but before he can kill him, Eric grabs him and bestows his gratitude for Top Dollar's crimes: all of the thirty hours of pain Shelly had to endure at once. In agonizing pain, Top Dollar falls off the roof and is impaled on a gargoyle.
Eric rescues Sarah and brings her to Albrecht who is soon taken to an ambulance. Eric then disappears from sight and crawls to Shelly's grave before passing out. Her spirit comes to him, sans face paint, and they are finally reunited.
Later, Sarah visits Eric's grave, which has closed up once again. The crow stands on his headstone, holding Shelly's ring that Sarah lost during her abduction. The crow drops it in Sarah's hand. As it flies off into the night, Sarah narrates that, though buildings burn and people die, real love is forever.
The film closes with the words "For Brandon and Eliza", a dedication to both Brandon Lee, who was accidentally killed during filming in 1993, and Eliza Hutton, who was Brandon's partner, until his death in 1993.