PLOT: The macabre and lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe are vividly brought to life - and death - in this stylish, gothic thriller starring John Cusack as the infamous author. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Poe's darkest works, a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer's mind in order to stop him from making every one of Poe's brutal stories a blood chilling reality. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, which escalates when Poe's love (Alice Eve) becomes the next target.
REVIEW: James McTeigue’s THE RAVEN is what happens when you mash Marvel‘s “What If?” comic with the final days of Edgar Allan Poe. What if the cause of death for Poe, famous author/poet/critic, wasn’t actually a self-inflicted fatal combination of drugs and alcohol but rather a poison given to him by a psychotic fan responsible for a series of grisly murders and the kidnapping of Poe’s fiancée? And what if Poe wasn’t really the tragic figure we all mistook him to be but was more a Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes meets Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan kinda guy?
Oh and what if he looked like John Cusack? That’s the biggie. If you can’t buy a 45-year old, Van Dyke goatee-sporting Cusack portraying the 40-year old Poe who never, at least according to any of the pictures I’ve ever seen of him, went beyond rocking a basic mustache then you are going to have some serious problems accepting the premise of THE RAVEN. I’m talking serious “can’t get past the first frame” film ending problems.
Cusack is Poe and Poe is Cusack. You’ll need to embrace that completely in order for this flick to work.
Accept that and you’ll be posed with some very interesting hypothetical questions THE RAVEN manages to, more or less, answer satisfactorily. I would’ve liked a little more explanation to killer’s motive (there’s an explanation but it was a touch too meta and seemed to come way out of left field) and could’ve probably done without the silly outfit (made he/she look like Carmen Sandiego) he/she is wearing during the murders (loved that all the killings were inspired by the works of Poe) but whatever.
Any and all plot holes (Why introduce Poe’s interest in forensic science if isn‘t going to be used to catch the killer?) and issues (the location of the killer’s hideout is a little ridiculous) I noticed were immediately wiped away by the solid direction from McTeigue (definitely a step from the CG silliness of NINJA ASSASSIN), the gory set pieces (loved the execution of the critic by pit and pendulum), a fairly compelling mystery (as “SE7EN meets SHERLOCK HOLMES” as it may have been I found myself hooked), the excellent performances (Luke Evans and Alice Eve are the standouts, Brendan Glesson scores a few good moments but falters ever so slightly thanks to a last act character turnaround), and Cusack‘s badass portrayal of Poe.
THE RAVEN is a very cool movie that twists and turns the unfortunate final days of Poe into a rousing little adventure for our enjoyment. That might be twisted and a too macabre for some but I think this is how Poe probably would have wanted it. Doubt highly Poe (or anyone else for that matter) would’ve wanted to see a depressing drama centering around him slowly dying of opium/alcohol poisoning. A little revisionist tinkering never hurt anybody.