I really like John Cusack. Sure, he isn’t the greatest, and he isn’t going to be on the cover of People as the sexiest man of the year, but the guy is fun to watch, and he usually picks some pretty fun roles. There have been a few that we timeless, like Say Anything, Better Off Dead, and High Fidelity, which have become staples in every film fan’s collection. For the most part though, his other movies are mediocre, but are still fun while you are watching them.
The Raven is one of the more mediocre movies that he has starred in. He plays the famous Edgar Allen Poe of modern fame, who isn’t appreciated in his own time enough to his liking. Through the course of the movie, there is a fan of Poe’s works that begins to commit murders that take the shape of some of his more famous works. He is aided by an inspector (Luke Evans who looks a lot like Orlando Bloom, Immortals, The Three Musketeers)that recognizes a crime scene from one of Poe’s stories, and enlists his help to solve them. Shortly after the first crime is committed, Poe’s fiancee Emily (Alice Eve, She’s Out Of My League, the forthcoming Men In Black III), is kidnapped by the killer, and keeps her in a coffin in a shallow grave for the majority of the movie.
The best part of the film was how engrossing the atmosphere was. They did a great job of showing Baltimore in the mid 1800s, giving the tone of the film a palpable darkness that was engrossing and enveloping. It was something that made up for a lot of the films shortcomings, that captivated me as I watched. I also really had a hard time trying to figure out who the killer was. Normally, I am able to figure that out well before it is revealed to the audience, but for this WhoDunnit, I was guessing until near the very end, getting it only moments before the big reveal. As mentioned above, Emily is taken and spends most of the movie in a coffin with just enough dirt over it to ensure that she has a hard time breathing. For every scene where she was in the ground, struggling to escape, I felt they did a great job giving a sense of claustrophobia I haven’t felt since seeing Ryan Reynolds in Buried (If you haven’t seen it, go out and do it, you will enjoy every moment of it), and a solitude I haven’t felt since seeing James Franco in 127 hours. Without giving away who the killer is, I will say that I REALLY want to see that guy in a lot more movies. He did a great job of being creepy and crazy, and should get a lot of recognition even though it was a smaller part.
Of the shortcomings, there were but few. For some reason, Luke Evans (who I have never seen in anything despite feeling throughout the entire movie that I recognized him from something, and couldn’t put my finger on it) decided to adopt a vocal tone that matched all too well the voice Christian Bale was mocked for in The Dark Night that was both inane and laughable. For one of the opening scenes, where he is in a pub trying to get a free drink, the bartender (a cameo part by Brendan Coyle, who is Mr. Bates on Downton Abbey) mocks him for not being as famous as he would like. Sadly, this is the one scene where I really enjoyed Cusack’s curmudgeon attitude, whereas for the rest of the movie, it makes him look cranky and obnoxious.
The Raven is rated R for some pretty violent content and language. I would say that other than a fairly gruesome Pendulum scene, the rest of the movie was mostly really tight suspense, so I personally would let teenagers see it if you have no problem with them seeing blood. All told, I give the movie 7 out of 10, since despite it’s flaws, was a solid script and a decent story. Though not the most original concept, the execution was done well, and I wanted to see it through to the end. John Cusack isn’t going to win any awards for his performance in it, but it isn’t one I would go to as an example of how poorly he can act either. I liked what I saw, and since I didn’t expect much, I basically got what I wanted out of it. I would even say that even the more avid English fans will really enjoy all of the literary references. The only mistake someone could make is going into this movie thinking that they are going to get a reenactment of the classic poem, which interestingly enough is glossed over briefly in the movie, and not brought up again. This is a movie to be enjoyed once, but would I see it again? Nevermore.
Also, as a side note, I walked into the last 2 minutes of The Five Year Engagement (which I sort of wish I had seen instead), and I can say that I guessed the ending from the trailer, and I was correct. I will also say that I liked what I saw, so go see it and tell me if the rest of the movie was as good as the last 2 minutes!