Having long been a fan of John Cusack I was eager to see him depict the 19th century poet Edgar Allen Poe in his latest film. Despite seeing that the film received a metacritic.com score of 44 (out of 100), I still went to watch it in the theater, and while I don’t think it was award-worthy, I did like most of it. The film is basically a serial murder mystery pulled along by real facts about Poe and his more famous writings, but with an overlying premise completely based on fantasy and conjecture. The first half is filled with gore as the M.O. of the serial killer is unveiled, and most of the film is filled with suspense and creepiness. And a smattering of ravens. The ending is weak compared to the pace and plot leading up to it, almost like they ran out of time to think of a better one.
Cusack does a fine job as Poe; on the surface he resembled the photographs widely available of the poet. Whether he mastered the speech patterns of the day, I’m not sure, but he delivered Poe’s poetry as someone who had written the words himself. The supporting cast is also decent, most notably the Welsh actor Luke Evans, who plays a police detective, and Irish actor Brendan Gleeson as the father of Poe’s lover. At times Evans delivers his lines like he’s on a daytime soap opera, but he’s easy on the eyes and builds a good character by the end. On the flip side, actor Brendan Coyle, Downton Abbey‘s Mr. Bates, didn’t seem right to play an inflexible barkeep in olden-day Baltimore. They should have let him use his real accent instead of forcing him to try an American one.
There was one really odd thing about the film, but it came in the closing credits. The graphics and music were loud and flashy, like they were pulled from the latest James Bond film. I’m not sure why they chose to do this, as it’s so disconnected that for a moment I forgot which film I had just watched.
The entire story takes place in 1849 Baltimore, Maryland, which apparently requires shooting in Hungary and Serbia to attain believable 19th century architecture and gloom. The look-and-feel reminded me of the recent Sherlock Holmes films, but while those are violent with comedy interspersed, this was violent with more violence interspersed. The Raven may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.