It’s a shame that Sherlock Holmes came to the movies first in recent years.
It he hadn’t, then Edgar Allen Poe might be the classic detective and “The Raven” would be the film to emulate. But since Holmes already has two installments under his belt, the moviegoer has a standard.
And Poe just doesn’t measure up………………
This is really too bad because the new fictionalized story of Poe’s last days is really good. Most of it comes from an unlikely source: actor John Cusack. His Poe is not as dark or drug addled as the real person, but it’s refreshing to see an historical figure in a new light.
The story is actually inventive. Since no one really knows what happened to Poe in the days before his death in 1849, writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (Yes, you are reading that right!) have used their collective imagination to create a thoroughly entertaining mystery thriller.
In this new film, Poe is pressed into service by a Baltimore police detective to help solve a series of murders that eerily resemble stories written by Poe. The plot really thickens when Poe’s love interest, Emily, is kidnapped and used as bait by the killer. Poe now knows the motive is personal…………….
Cusack is about as far from his other characters as he can be. He is wistful and imaginative and witty all at once. Yet, he is serious and determined to save Emily. He makes Poe come alive to an audience that usually only see him as morbid and/or disturbed. Poe’s love for Emily is real, so the killer uses this emotion to get Poe’s involvement, which is at the crux of the killer’s endgame.
Director James McTeigue does especially good work in getting the most out of Cusack and the other actors. He moves the plot along and isn’t shy about gory and gruesome. McTeigue tells a strong story in only 111 minutes.
Luke Evans is good as the young detective Emett Fields. He gives the feel of a detective and works like one who wants to catch a madman regardless of all else. Alice Eve is good as Emily Hamilton. She doesn’t have such a big part, but her part in the mystery is well played. She has to do some rough stuff and pulls it off. Brendan Gleeson is also good as her father, Captain Hamilton, who despises Poe, but works with him when he realizes they want the same thing: to save Emily.
I won’t spoil the ending, but Poe’s story, “Murder in the Rue Morgue,” is used in the first case, the murder of two women. This is where the killer begins his game to trap Poe and eventually kill him. You will be satisfied by the ending; it does seem possible.
It has been said that Ewan McGregor and Jeremy Renner were first choice for the roles of Poe and Fields, respectively. But other projects made it impossible to get both actors. I think it worked out fine with who they used. Cusack and Evans worked well together and have good screen chemistry.
The film is rated R for bloody violence and grisly images. Do not take your children to see it!
“The Raven,” named after Poe’s most famous work, opened in a disappointing seventh place with $7 million this past weekend. Please don’t take this finish as an indication of how good the movie ‘isn’t’ because it is good.
It has a strong story; wonderful period costumes and superb cinematography. It has a plot and good acting. People will find it when the summer season begins and all the other choices are action hero stories. Why see an action hero when you can see a hero with substance in action?