It didn’t get the most favorable reviews in theaters, but “The Raven” is more than worth checking out on DVD.
John Cusack (“Hot Tub Time Machine”) stars as Edgar Allan Poe in the final days leading up to the poet’s mysterious death. A serial killer murders two Baltimore residents in horrific ways that remind one young detective (Luke Evans, “The Three Musketeers”) of a story he’d read, and Poe, the author of that story, is brought on the case. As the bodies start piling up around Baltimore and Poe’s lover named Emily (Alive Eve, “The Decoy Bride”) is kidnapped, Poe will have to beat the murderer in a game of wits and storytelling to get to the bottom of the killings and save Emily in time.
Cusack as Poe is a surprisingly good fit. He does very well capturing Poe’s larger than life opinion of his own work and fame, but he is also able to portray his tragedy. Poe’s life was a difficult one. It was laced with the deaths of every woman he loved, too much drinking and gambling debts. He was a man off-kilter, and Cusack channels that quality wonderfully.
Despite his fantastic portrayal, Cusack can’t save the movie from its slow start. The first several minutes, despite being important, drag on. By the time the movie finally flows at an appropriate pace, the final confrontation is nearly upon the viewer.
The pace of the film wobbles as well. Every time the viewer is charged and ready for more, the plot slows, negating the recovery. And while the scenes are important, they perhaps aren’t executed in the most efficient way. For example, there are often too many awkward pauses between Poe and the detective, almost as if the actors couldn’t quite find their footing with one another to feed off of one another’s cues and energy on camera.
That being said, the movie delivers as a whole. There are twists and surprises reminiscent of those in Poe’s detective works, and the graphic scenes depicting the murders do well in mirroring the literary ones, even if they aren’t exact. The choice of villain is an interesting one that works well with the plot, and when the audience finally sees the killer, they are every bit as eerie and creepy as is needed to live up to the rest of the movie.
Diehard Poe fans will either love the homage to a brilliant writer or hate the movie for not living up to greater expectations. And while that’s harsh, it’s also fitting.
Because even back in his lifetime, audiences either loved Poe or hated him.
Movie: “The Raven”
Director: James McTeigue
DVD Release: Oct. 9, 2012
Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans