Monday, 8 July 2013

No.109 : The Raven

The Raven at the IMDb

John Cusack stars as Edgar Allen Poe in this film, which isn’t so much as a bio-pic as a sexed up fantasy depiction of the writer’s final days.

We open with the Victorian era Baltimore police breaking into a locked apartment. They know a killer is in the room as the door was just locked, but find no one apart from a couple of dead bodies. After scratching their heads a young detective finds a hidden switch on a nailed down window frame, which causes it to open and reveal the killer’s means of egress. The detective reveals his moment of inspiration came from a book he’d read, but who had written it?

Meanwhile Poe is having a hard time. His newspaper editor refuses to print his review, the barman denies him credit and the father of his new love chases him off with a gun. It could be worse though - he could be the bloke getting chopped in two by a fragging great pendulum.

With the bodies piling up the detective realises that someone is killing people in the manner of deaths from Poe’s books. He enlists the help of the manic author and the two manage to deduce the likely location of the next murder - the masked ball hosted by Poe’s lover’s father - good old Brendan Gleeson, on moderate shouty form.

Things don’t go as planned and the mysterious killer achieves his true aim - to kidnap Poe’s love in a bid to coax more works from him. What follows is a series of clues that lead to more deaths and dead ends. All the while Poe’s lover is buried underground and only Poe’s daily stories in the paper can keep her alive until the puzzle is solved.

I quite enjoyed this film despite it being really farfetched. It was almost like CSI Victorian Baltimore with a steam punk Poe in the lead. I always had Poe down as a quiet bookish man but how wrong I was - he chases villains on horseback while shooting his pistol gangsta style!

The film opened well and like I liked the central idea of a killer employing Poe’s macabre methods of death to gain the scribe’s attention. It did however go downhill once the kidnapping took place and towards the end it was like a ‘Comic Strip Presents’ version of his life with Hollywood demanding more heroics at every turn.

The deaths were pretty good although the majority were only seen after the fact. The unmasking of the villain didn’t make a lot of sense and you have to wonder where he got the means and indeed time to set up his elaborate murders.

I felt Cusack was miscast and too tall and dashing for the role. His usual mania was present and correct and although he was playing a drug addled drunk, I never got beyond the feeling he was hamming it up. Gleeson was a bit better, but his character’s 180 degree turn in his feelings for Poe was misjudged. The Detective character needed a bit more presence and again he went from contempt to hero worship in his feelings for Poe in 30 seconds.

The effects were largely OK although I don’t know why they needed a ‘follow the bullet’ shot that seemed incongruous with the rest of the film. That said it was directed by ‘V For Vendetta’ helmer James McTeigue which also explains the shot of the baddie jumping from the roof which was lifted wholesale, hat and all, from that much better film.

‘The Raven’ is a decent enough distraction but it fails to be the equal of its parts and the whole thing seems more than a bit silly long before the end.

THE Tag Line : You Won't Rue (Morgue) Watching It  - 65%

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