Starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans
Directed by James McTeigue
Y'guys remember what really made Iron Man (I promise I'm not just geeking out about The Avengers, there's a point here) so good? It wasn't really the direction or the script, both of which were just okay. It was that Robert Downey Jr. brought a character to life so strongly, it was able to elevate the entire film to greatness. The Raven is the other side of that coin. Pretty much everything about it is entrenched in mediocrity, with one exception: John Cusack. He just sucks. I have never seen a good actor give a more enthusiasm-draining performance then he does in this film. He takes an average movie and turns it into an absolute chore.
The Raven attempts to weave the mysterious death of legendary horror writer Edgar Allen Poe into a grissly murder mystery. Corpses begin popping up around 19th century Baltimore, the means of death all seemingly taken straight from the pages of Poe's grizzly stories. He's brought in as a suspect by the local detective (Luke Evans), but after he's cleared of the charges, he tags along to help solve the mystery. The stakes are raised when Poe's fiance, Emily (Alice Eve), is kidnapped and made part of the equation.
A good chunk of the problem with the lead is just bad casting. Cusack certainly looks the part of Edgar Allen Poe, but he's also one of those actors known largely for just playing himself. That's one of the worst things to start with when you want me to believe that he's a 150 year old historical figure.
Even ignoring that, though, Cusack just phones the part in. Sure, he yells and belts out witty phrases and insults, but he somehow just manages to overact while simultaneously exuding boredom. Take the average modern performance from Nicolas Cage, remove all the fun, and you have a pretty good indication of what's in store for you.
The part isn't written very well, either. Sure, Poe is just as verbose and morbid as one would expect him to be, but it all feels fake. He doesn't talk like a brilliant man whose life has been filled with hardship. He's more like an eighth grade goth kid with a really good vocabulary. His depressed personality isn't interesting, it's just irritating.
Poe's relationship with Emily makes sense from a storytelling standpoint, as it gives him a personal motivation, but the chemistry between Cusack and Eve is awful. Frankly, Poe is so annoying it's near-impossible to believe that anyone could even really like him, much less love him to the extent that she does.
The mystery itself provides for a few thrills, largely from the intensity of the violence (I shudder when thinking of just how boring this movie would be at PG-13) never manages to climb above the "meh" levels of interest. The plot contains more then just a few contrivances, and the eventual revelation of the mystery is so badly done it verges on satire-worthy.
To date, this is the shortest review that I've written for this website so far, and I think that acts as a pretty telling commentary of how unremarkable this movie is. Is it awful? I guess not, but I'd have trouble recommending watching it even if it were streaming on Crackle (a likely fate), much less going out and plunking down the 8+ dollars it'll be costing you to see it in the theater.