Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: The Raven

Back when John Cusack was doing pressers for The Raven, he lamented openly about how Hollywood doesn’t make real romantic comedies anymore.  While not all may agree with this sentiment, most would concur that gone are the days of SerendipityAmerica’s Sweethearts, and Say Anything in favor of a more risqué brand of relationship humor.  Having watched Cusack’s performance in The Raven, I now understand why he would lament such a trend.  His portrayal of Edgar Allen Poe is so dreadful that I am convinced that his usefulness as an actor is relegated to roles as a forlorn sad sack looking for love.  The movie and his performance are just that underwhelming.

The movie chronicles a fictionalized version of the final few days of Poe’s life in which a serial killer has begun to terrorize Baltimore by enacting murders based on his writing as a means to draw the beleaguered author into a game of cat and mouse.  Along with Detective Fields (played by Luke Evans), Poe (John Cusack) must find the murderer before his fiancé meets her demise.

The main issue with the movie is that it is supposed to be highly cerebral but the game of cat and mouse is not nearly clever enough to drive the plot.  In a film where nearly everyone is a suspect, director James McTeigue and writer Ben Livingston tip their hands far too early in the film.  This robs the film of the big reveal that is necessary as the payoff to justify all the overly verbose dialogue and hammed up acting that plague the film.  

It doesn’t help the proceedings that John Cusack is brutal as Poe.  His accent, mannerisms, and emoting are so awful that they make Bruce Willis’ performance in Armageddon feel Oscar worthy…really.  Nothing he does in this movie is good.  And unfortunately, he brings down a talented cast with him.  Luke Evans, soon to be more of a household name after The Hobbit and The Fast and Furious 6, is a solid actor but his efforts as the keen Detective Fields  feel futile opposite Cusack.  Likewise the lovely Alice Eve, who normally has good screen presence, seems drab and uninteresting as Poe’s fiancé Emily.  In fact, this mediocrity pervades the rest of the cast from Brendan Gleeson to Kevin McNally and on down the line.

The weak script and poor acting leave very little to latch onto in this film.  Without an investment in the characters and in the manufactured intrigue, what you’re left with is a sequence of events that do not create adequate  suspense and do not add up to a tense compelling narrative.  Thus all the murders, the clues, the pseudo twists barely register but instead come off as mere noise on the way to the closing credits.  Because of this, I cannot recommend this movie.  In fact, I would say The Raven is one that you should probably avoid.  Even the most ardent fans of this genre or of John Cusack would be hard pressed to find entertainment value here.  If suspense is what you crave, there are a plethora of alternatives on the market to turn to.  And if you are looking for a good John Cusack movie, you'll probably have more luck looking for a title from the past than one set for release in the near  future. 

Standout Performance: None.


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