Starting out with Cusack really embracing a rare opportunity to portray one of the greatest literary minds of all time (in a not too dissimilar a way to Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes) the tone of The Raven veers from mildly comedic to superficially gothic far too quickly. Naturally, this has about as much historic merit as your regular cinematic sink-crapping, but isn't without its moments either.
Cusack's Poe is an acerbic, quick-witted and broke writer, in love with Brendan Gleeson's beautiful, feisty daughter - played by the ascetically gifted Alice Eve. When a series of grisly murders begin taking place, seemingly inspired by Poe's work, hardworking detective Luke Evans enlists the scribe to help stop the rising body count. Suddenly the case becomes a lot more personal for our hero, as his better half may be the latest victim of the dastardly and brilliant villain, copying his greatest works. A race against time and a battle of wills will determine whether she lives or dies.
From the opening frames Cusack really owns Poe; his mannerisms and quick wit, coupled with genuinely sharp, but relevant dialogue really set this up The Raven something worth watching. There's an early exchange between Poe and Gleeson that veers on the right side of lightness, and introduces the character perfectly. It then continues in the same vein, with similar scenes involving Poe belittling his editor in a thoroughly amusing fashion. Even then, the cut to a cartoonishly violent murder doesn't distract too much.
Problems arise when the film's plot kicks in, and you realise how thin some of these characters are. It's ostensibly a mystery, but the revealing of said mystery is sidetracked by stoic direction, that while suitably stylish, doesn't lend itself well to proficient storytelling. McTeigue still knows atmosphere, and the film has plenty; but it never strikes the promised balance between foreboding and fun. That said, Cusack is really enjoying himself, and he and Evans make for an immensely watchable pairing - the latter's intensity never ceasing for breath.
Just a bit too messy, and not in the way a movie about a serial killer should be.
Story by Mike Sheridan | 16:54 | Friday 20th July 2012 | DVD review
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