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The Raven movie poster

The Raven: Movie Review

Genre: Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by: James McTeigue

Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Luke Evans, Kevin McNally
Released by: Rogue Pictures

In Short: Despite John Cusack's valiant effort to transform famed author Edgar Allan Poe into a Holmes-like detective, this plodding thriller never really takes flight.

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Edgar Allan Poe Is Not Sherlock Holmes

Take a helping of Edgar Allan Poe's writings, throw in a heavy dose of Sherlock Holmes along with a series of murders that seem suspiciously reminiscent of Jack the Ripper, and you've got "The Raven."

Unfortunately, the lukewarm thriller, directed by "V for Vendetta" helmer James McTeigue, never captures the imagination, despite a reasonably interesting premise. Set in Baltimore in the 1840s, the film presents Poe (John Cusack) as a slightly dissolute, slightly crazy guy with writer's block. The only thing that's keeping him going is his romance with Emily Hamilton (British beauty Alice Eve), a relationship that her wealthy father (Brendan Gleeson) is completely against. Meanwhile, living on the edge of bankruptcy, Poe desperately attempts to sell stories to the city newspaper.

But the biggest news in the town is centering on a series of brutal murders, killings that Detective Fields (Luke Evans) eventually realizes are mimicking events in Poe's famous stories. As detective and author join forces to search for the murderer, Poe's romance with Emily heats up.

Still from The Raven John Cusack in The Raven

Problem is, the film itself never gives off any heat, neither in those romantic scenes, nor at any other point in this lethargic period piece. Even when a pendulum is slicing through a fat man's belly, it evokes nothing more than a feeling of "ugh," rather than the abject terror it should evoke. There's no spark between Poe and Hamilton, nor one between Poe and Fields, nor with anyone else; this is not the vibrant, fascinating trio of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Irene Adler, not by a long shot.

Instead, "The Raven" is a slog, peppered with languid shots of said birds flying across a grey landscape as Poe's life slowly, slowly unravels. And when the murderer is finally identified, don't be surprised if your response is a bit of bewilderment, followed by incredulity once they begin to explain his motives. Those will make you scratch your head and wonder, for they make no sense whatsoever.

So when the credits finally begin to roll, moviegoers will leave feeling disappointed that an interesting premise could be so woefully mangled into such a slow, pedantic cinematic experience.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 04/30/12 CT)

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