Quoth the raven: "Eh."
Showcasing John Cusack as
Someone in 1849 Baltimore is on a murder spree, riffing on methods of torture and execution depicted in "The Pit and the Pendulum" and other works of the melancholic, alcoholic Poe. It's like a grisly one-person interactive book club focused on one man's literary output.
Written by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, "The Raven" invents a gallery of fictional characters to juice up Poe's final days. A local detective, played by a bland Luke Evans, suspects Poe may be the one behind the Poe-inspired carnage.
Poe's intended (
For a while, you give the film the benefit of the doubt. Shooting in period-appropriate Budapest, Hungary, and Belgrade, Serbia, albeit with too few extras on the streets, director
At one point Cusack's Poe mutters: "I've used up all my tricks," bemoaning his fate as a fiction writer trying to make ends meet. It's the same thought most every writer, and indeed most actors, fear at some point in their careers. With a stylishly dour goatee and air of charismatic minimalist despair, Cusack's portrayal feels like a look, a character design, in search of completion.
As with many fine actors, Cusack walks a thin line between droll understatement and practiced diffidence. McTeigue treats him like a star, and Cusack has his moments. But too many individual scenes requiring sweep and propulsion — a masked ball, the murderer running loose backstage at a theater — never get out of second gear. And however many digitally created ravens appear on screen in "The Raven," it's one too many. Even for a Poe movie.
'The Raven' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for bloody violence and grisly images)
Running time: 1:50