Truth be disclosed, we had high hopes for James McTeigue’s The Raven. The story about a serial killer who is inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe suggested a Se7en meets Jack the Ripper tale and early trailers for the film had us optimistic about the result.
John Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe and he is portrayed as a struggling writer for a Baltimore newspaper who between bouts of over excessive drinking is romantically engaging Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) much to the chagrin of her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) who has little patience for Poe’s cockery and antics.
But Edgar Allan Poe’s romantic endeavors have to take a back carriage seat when a mysterious killer begins to use murders as described in such Poe classic writings as The Pit and the Pendulum as his inspiration to his rampage. Detective Fields (Luke Evans) is quick to make the connection between the gruesome discoveries and Poe’s literary prose and he teams with the author in an attempt to get closer to identifying the killer.
Adding one wrinkle to the events is the kidnapping of Emily Hamilton. Emily is not quickly killed, but is instead buried alive and now Poe and Fields must work through various clues and the odd mistake by the film’s villain.
As aforementioned, much was expected from the director of V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin. But from almost the first frame of The Raven, things go awry and the dialogue and the subsequent acting expected from the dialogue fails to lift the film towards any hint of a recommendation.
First and foremost is the miscasting of the usually reliable John Cusack. Ewan McGregor was originally cast in the role (with Jeremy Renner as Detective Fields), but both dropped out of the project to pursue other projects. Cusack’s accent comes and goes and his portrayal of the eccentric Poe has him more of an ass-clown buffoon whom audiences could care less suffers or survives.
The killings were unmemorable save for poor Rufus Wilmot Griswold who gets cut in half by a pendulum that looks like it was rigged by the Jigsaw killer from the Saw franchise while spewing CGI blood throughout the room.
The action and drama that takes place between each murder is boring and poorly written and it culminates in an ending that looks to have been test-audience approved and neither satisfies those that suffered through the 110-minute running time nor does it bring appropriate closure to the cat-and-mouse events that preceded it.
The end result was such that we thought the film would be better titled 'The Rental'.