Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cusack channels Edgar Allan and Sherlock in THE RAVEN

THE RAVEN (2012- U.S.) D: James McTeigue.  John Cusack is 'Edgar Allan Poe' as 'Sherlock Holmes' in this fast-paced and atmospheric period mystery.  When a series of murders blatantly mimic the most gruesome details of Poe's latest tales, the alcoholic author himself is called in by the Baltimore police, first as a suspect and then, as an expert to ascertain clues and lead the police to the deranged killer.  In between the race against the pendulum, Poe is trying propose to his beloved Emily (Alice Eve) and avoid her disapproving dad (Brendan Gleeson) until things take a turn for the worse and Emily is abducted by the killer and buried alive!  It's a race against the clock to save her before she runs out of oxygen or  the movie's running time.  Cusack brings a lot of energy and surprising depth to an historical literary character who's slamming back booze (his or anybody's) whenever its within arm-shot.  Cusack also seems to channel a bit of Downey's Sherlock Holmes and, oddly enough, some Nicholas Cage as well!  While the film is nicely staged and beautifully shot on sets and locations in Eastern Europe and the performances are all strong, the whole project seems to consciously ride the coat tails of the successful Ritchie/Holmes series with Poe merely substituting for the Baker Street sleuth.  While the pacing doesn't let up, the romantic angle is kept center stage but doesn't emotionally build and resonant as it should.  The actual who-done-it element of the plot is sadly extremely weak, a third-rate imitation Holmes mystery with a not-so interesting or believable villain.  This could have been fixed.  From the director of V FOR VENDETTA and the MATRIX.
Check out Bela Lugosi as a much cooler, fever-pitch maniacal Poe-inspired psycho in the more creative and romantically warped THE RAVEN (1935) directed by Louis Friedlander (aka Lew Landers).  Also co-stars Boris Karloff as a surgically mutilated but sympathetic brute.

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