The Raven Review: Weak And Weary

On General Release Friday 9th March

In 1849 the author Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious and dying on a park bench in Baltimore with no explanation as to how he got there.  Taking the mystery as inspiration, The Raven sees Poe (John Cusack) go up against a mysterious enemy who’s using his gothic horror stories as inspiration for a series of real life murders.  As interesting at that premise might be, it’s let down by appalling writing, a lack of engaging characters and a fundamental inability to understand what makes a mystery tick.

Down on his luck and relegated to a lowly position of freelance critic for a local newspaper (quelle horreur!), Poe is forced to team up with hotshot detective Fields (Luke Evans) when his beloved (Alice Eve) is abducted and clues to her whereabouts are scattered on the bodies of the murderer’s victims.

Cusack makes a passable Poe (with goatee instead of moustache).  He’s at his best when he lashes out (both verbally and physically) at anything that strays into his path – fellow authors, his long-suffering editor, a multitude of unfortunately placed glasswork.  Sadly the dialogue doesn’t have the rapier wit or the cutting lash that Poe was famous for and the supporting cast fail are decidedly lacklustre.

Taut-faced Luke Evans tries valiantly as the busy detective Fields but he’s not given enough good dialogue to work with.  If only Evans could land a decent role. He was easily one of the best things in one of 2011 biggest disasters The Three Musketeers and one of the highlights of Tarsem’s Singh’s style-over-substance epic  Immortals – there’s a good actor in there, he just needs the right vehicle.

Alice Eve is disappointingly sidelined as the token ingénue and confined to a wooden box for most of the proceedings.  Even the presence of gingery-bearded Brendan Gleeson can’t inject any life into the production (not helped by his character’s bull-headed insistence not to cancel a masked ball merely because people are being brutally murdered).

The tone, like Poe, lurches drunkenly all over the place.  From its badly misjudged metal-infused soundtrack via an incongruously gory death scene (which could be an outtake from Saw) to its Final Destination-esque ending credits, there’s not a consistent note in the entire film. Instead The Raven feels like a hodgepodge of other gothic-tinged movies (notably Sleepy Hollow and From Hell) but fails to stand on its own.  Nevermore indeed.

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