The Raven is not a very good movie. This is because John Cusack, while making a game effort, is not convincing and the plot is pretty much unappealingly repackaged suspense film tropes.
Here’s a trailer:
Released April 27, 2012
Written by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare
Directed by James McTeigue
Starring Alice Eve, Pam Ferris, John Cusack, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen
* * * * *
Boston police detective Fields (Evans), notices that a grisly murder reminds him of a story written by local poet/story writer Edgar Allen Poe (Cusack). Poe is not the murderer, but when another murder occurs, also matching the writings of Poe, Fields asks Poe to join the investigation. Poe is currently experiencing severe writer’s block, possibly due to the steady stream of chemicals he is ingesting and also possibly due to the girl he has his heart set on being kept out of reach by her father.
The girl is Emily (Eve) and her father is police captain Charles Hamilton (Gleeson). Hamilton sees that Poe will only bring heartache to his daughter and is justified in keeping the two separate. However, Emily is in love with Poe, and love is as love does. (Why she loves the intemperate alcoholic is the biggest mystery of the film.)
The murderer is brutal and seemingly has limitless resources to recreate the dark murders of Poe’s stories, and we get to seem some pretty gruesome homicides in the course of the film.
Soon after Poe is looped into the case, he finds his writer’s block cured and he gets fully invested in the investigation. Which, you guessed it, endangers the woman he loves.
All of this story takes place over just a few days, the true history of which, in Poe’s life, are still a mystery. We know that Poe was found dead on a park bench in real history, but what preceded that death is unknown. This film does its best to shoehorn the story into known and unknown history.
The Raven has some very strong points, mostly from Luke Evans’ acting job, some fairly tense scenes and pacing, and Alice Eve’s remarkable ability to elevate every scene she is in. She makes her run of the mill, hard to understand love interest character strong and interesting.
What’s more, the premise of the film is pretty good and it is executed with some interesting development.
The main problem is that, although Cusack does nail some of the more intense scenes, in most of the film he is essentially a goatee’d John Cusack, in all of his mouth-breathing glory. The secondary problem is that we see most of the twists coming and the actual murderer is out of the blue, like an Agatha Christie culprit. Seriously. The murderer should have been someone we knew and who seemed murky in some way.
Not so much.
So this is a pretty good, somewhat too-gruesome film whose lead is hard to really like, whose love story is a bit hard to believe, and whose resolution is a little hard to swallow.
Content warnings: Some salty language, plenty of gruesome images.
Writing: 3.5 Acting: 3.5 Overall: 3
No need to be a poet and not know it, just share this baby. Go on, do it! The tell-tale heart/clock is ticking!