Published Apr 26, 2012Quoth the audience, "Isn't this essentially the plot of The Bone Collector?" Yes, yes it is, and that of every other taunting-killer-thriller Seven knock-off, only with Edgar Allan Poe in the role of investigator.
At least the character of Poe, as portrayed by John Cusack – arrogant, passionate and pathetic, with flashes of prodigious verbosity –is entertaining enough to give this parade of the predictable a little spark, but not enough to overcome the script's lazy plotting.
Inspired by the mystery surrounding Poe's death (for those not convinced it was the booze), The Raven starts with the famous poet delirious and dying on a park bench. To posit a reason more heroic and marketable than rampant alcoholism for the peculiarities of his demise, the screenwriting team positions Poe at the centre of a deranged fan's morbid game.
When a hardnosed police inspector (Luke Evans, Immortals) notices that a series of murders he's investigating in Baltimore are modelled after some of Poe's more macabre tales, he enlists the assistance of the regularly besotted and cantankerous writer, who rarely even sees his scathing literary criticisms published at this stage of his disintegrating career, instead making money teaching poetry to delusional aristocrats.
There's a side plot about Poe's secret relationship with a wealthy military captain's daughter, and while it does afford the opportunity to poke fun at Poe's reticence to formally commit until soothed by the spectre of death, ultimately there's not enough substance in the writing, Alice Eve's acting (she'd likely make the same face whether asked to display consternation or constipation) or James McTeigue's direction to make their love feel like anything more than a necessary cog in the plot mechanics.
McTeigue, after displaying such promise with V For Vendetta, proves conclusively that it was the strength of that film's source material, not any sense of vision from the director, which made that film a success. While not quite as tedious as the loathsome Ninja Assassin, The Raven suffers from the same hollow stylization standing in for a sense of pacing, structural repetition, sloppy editing and a tone so indistinct that it's more likely to be appreciated as unintentional comedy.
After all, how can one take a murder mystery serious when Edgar Allan Poe has a pet raccoon and an adversary who can inexplicably defy the laws of physics on occasion? (VVS)