John Cusack usually makes pretty good movies. From the 80’s romp comedies that made him famous to his more serious roles of today, he has made quite a career for himself. Unfortunately, neither his diversity as an actor nor his passion for character can save “The Raven” from becoming a pale imitation of the stories it is based off of. While Cusack pulls off the portrayal of emotionally disturbed and melancholy writer Edgar Allan Poe with an intense ferocity, the film quickly deteriorates into a thin murder mystery that is only slightly better than an episode of “CSI”.
The story starts off strong enough with a broke, disheveled Poe battling semantics with a bar keep about society’s inability to recognize good literature. It is evident that Poe considers himself at above average intelligence and taste for fine art as he tries to convince the bar owner to serve him alcohol without payment.
Between the scenes of Poe’s lonely existence we are intrigued by a scene of a man strapped to a table with a giant, razor sharp pendulum swinging closer and closer until a delicious and grisly death takes him. The police, already investigating a murder in which the killer vanishes from a seemingly locked room, finds this new murder and connects Poe to them as each murder is a recreation of a particular Poe story.
It is here that the movie slides into a typical hum drum mystery as the police and Poe find clues at each murder pointing to the next one, and the next one, and so on. Poe’s betrothed is kidnapped and he discovers he must write himself into the story in order to keep her alive. Little action and boring performances help the story limp along to an obvious and stale conclusion with the most ludicrous and cramp inducing end credits known to man.
It seems the director automatically assumes the audience is overly familiar with Poe’s work with the alliterations to each clue and doesn’t take the consideration that most of us do not sit around, fondling and drooling over the collective works of Edgar Allan Poe.
The only saving grace is that of Cusack’s passion for the characters he plays. You can see the turmoil, depression, and demons he drowns in brandy and other liquors. With such talent going to waste, it would have been more interesting to see a biographical account of Poe’s life, rather than a badly crafted fictional account of his final days.
Kyle Hall has seen lots and lots of movies and loves the small of napalm in the morning. You can follow his exploits on his Facebook page.