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Review: The Raven


The circumstances surrounding now-iconic writer, Edgar Allan Poe's death in 1849 are incredibly mysterious ones and now the subject of James McTeigue's upcoming gothic crime thriller, The Raven. John Cusack stars as the famed writer who must aid the Baltimore police after a series of grisly murders take place showing striking similarities with the deaths in Poe's work. As the case develops it becomes clear that his life and the life of the woman he loves are in grave danger -cue the ominous crowing of ravens. 

Evidently inspired by the success of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes updates, turning this famed historical figure into the protagonist in a gothic crime thriller should work, but unfortunately it is so shoddily carried out that it falls flat - or rather, never even gets off the ground. This is sad because the concept of fusing the wonderful, macabre work of Poe with a serial killer picture sounds fresh and rather exciting.

One of the main issues with The Raven, is the transformation of Poe, an infamously dark figure, into a quirky and light-hearted character. So ridiculous, that he even has a girlfriend who is about twenty years his junior and looks like an underwear model - but you don't need to worry about that, here are some shots of her heaving bosom. McTeigue had the chance to turn the on-screen Poe into a multi-faceted and dynamic character, but instead he becomes one of the most forgettable and unconvincing protagonists of recent years. Cusack is a fine actor and had the role been better written, giving him a chance to get his teeth into the part, then this could have been far more interesting. However, the role is simply reduced to a man with a hot girlfriend and a pet racoon - how quirky.

Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare's screenplay feels like a generic crime thriller that simply thinks it will get by on its vaguely promising concept. The plot feels messy and predictable, with modern dialogue that appears to have been written by a twelve year old. McTeigue's direction is equally tedious - delivering on visual atmosphere but falling flat in almost all other aspects, becoming instantly forgettable.

The Raven does actually succeed in one aspect, but not due to the work of the film's creative team - the Poe designed death sequences all feel inventive and fresh almost over 150 years since they were written. However, if that is your key interest - they are all carried out far more enjoyably and consistently in the Roger Corman/Vincent Price Poe collaborations of the 1960s.

There are also a variety of your typical supporting players from Luke Evans, who is terribly miscast as the world's worst detective and Brendan Gleeson who bumbles along as Poe's girlfriend's father.

The Raven is simply not dark enough for Poe fan and not light enough for mainstream audiences. It's tedious direction and calamitous screenplay squander an interesting concept and a potentially exciting performance from John Cusack.

RATING: 2/5
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