Synopsis: When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s works, a young Baltimore detective joins forces with Poe to stop him from making his stories a reality.
Stars: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson
Director: James McTeigue
Running Length: 111 minutes
Random Crew Highlight: Line Producer: Serbia ~ Andjelija Vlaisavljevic
TMMM Score: (2.5/10)
Review: They say that the smartest writers know when to stop. In the case of The Raven, they should have never started. Taking one of the most famous literary voices of horror and wedging him into a Sherlock Holmes meets Seven style mystery sounds like an interesting concept but the end result is a fever dream of a broken movie. Muddy editing, dreary acting, and uninspired direction coincide with the flat script to give the audience much less than their money’s worth.
Viewing The Raven is quite a frustrating experience that I liken to a trip to Cold Stone Creamery (may they rest in MN peace). I don’t know about you but I always ended up behind the person that had absolutely no clue what they wanted and desired to sample everything first. It’s ice cream…it’s not that hard! Same goes with The Raven. We know what kind of movie we want to see but seemingly no one involved could agree on what movie they were making. I don’t remember a movie in recent memory where the majority of actors are working in totally different films.
Cusack’s movie seems to be an indie surrealistic take on Poe in which he time travels from present day to the late 1800’s. His mannerisms and delivery are modern but his clothing and environment are not. I know the F-bomb has been on the tongues of people for centuries but its one use here by Cusack is totally jarring and out of place. Cusack remains an actor who makes interesting choices but taking on Poe (at least in this movie) was a mistake.
Evans fares better as the Watson-esque foil to Cusack’s Sherlock-y Poe. If anything, he takes the movie too seriously so the end result comes off as overacting. Still, he cuts a believable figure as the detective working with Poe to solve some heinous murders based on Poe’s works.
Eve’s Emily is drearier than Baltimore fog as Poe’s love interest and focus of the masked killer’s agenda. How Emily and Poe are in such deep love I’ll never know because the actors have zero chemistry with absolutely no spark. Eve’s line delivery is straight from the January Jones School of No Inflection. Her lines are so flatlined that you never know whether she’s asking a question or telling you about her day. It’s especially laughable when she talks to the killer in a breathy baby voice…I dare you not to snicker.
The rest of the cast is a mostly forgettable lot that are hidden behind poor wigs/beards and, in one scene, costumes that looked like they came from the 4th National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera’s “Masquerade” sequence. For you Downton Abbey fans, Mr. Bates makes an all too brief appearance – don’t make the same mistake I did and hold your breath for his return later in the movie. Set in Baltimore but filmed in Serbia (which, I swear, is the new Toronto for cheap moviemaking) the movie is filled with UK actors barely doing American accents. Some of them are so bad at it they appear to have some sort of speech impediment.
We haven’t even touched on the plot yet which grows sillier with each twist and turn. I do feel that the story itself was interesting in an old-school way but it’s the dialogue that sinks this ship from the get-go. Written by one first time writer and one television scribe, it really feels like a yin/yang fight for dominance. There are some decidedly modern sounding phrases (I’m pretty sure in 1880’s Baltimore the phrase “Shut it or I’ll shut it for you” wouldn’t be commonplace) and then phrases delivered in Olde English. It’s a schizophrenic mish-mash of contrivances that simply don’t add up.
Director McTeigue helmed V for Vendetta and served as first assistant director on The Matrix films but unfortunately brings none of that style to the screen save for a few good shots of bullets flying through the air. He does get the John Woo Dove award for including lots (LOTS) of ravens…we get it…the movie is called The Raven…Poe’s poem is “The Raven”…message received McTeigue. The totally stylistically different final credit sequence is the capper on a quite confused movie.
What should have been an interesting outing with dark tones ends up being a true mess of a film that is about 30 minutes longer than it should be. Poe wrote nicely compact chillers that said a lot but saying little. Had The Raven have followed that formula there may have been a movie to recommend here…sadly…’twas not to be.