Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Raven (2012)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

It’s 1849, and in Baltimore, Maryland Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is recruited by Detective Fields ( Luke Evans) to catch a killer inspired by Poe’s work. With each murder, the killer reenacts Poe’s tales, short stories, and poems with a helpless victim, who’s forced to suffer through it all.

Eventually, the killer’s obsession with Poe hits too close to home. Using The Masque Of The Red Death as his inspiration, the killer kidnaps Poe’s fiance, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) during her father’s annual masquerade ball. Furious, Captain Charles Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) blames Poe for his daughter's kidnapping, but Captain Hamilton and Poe are forced to put aside their bitter feelings for each other to rescue Emily.

For his grand finale, the killer plans to torture and murder Emily by carefully following the steps in one of Poe’s more famous short stories. To make the game more interesting, the killer leaves a trail of clues including more dead bodies. Will Detective Fields and Poe solve the mystery and save Emily’s life before it’s too late?

I think it’s safe to say John Cusack delivers the best performance here. Cusack is this nutty and delusional alcoholic with a snarky sense of humor at first, but as the story progresses, Cusack shows a more serious side. And during the finale, Cusack was believable, as this desperate and heartbroken man. Evans isn’t bad, but he doesn’t deserve too much of the blame. Basically, Evans is supposed to be this ingenious inspector/detective, and Evans gave it his all with the Fields character, but the character is way too generic, dull, and one dimensional. Gleeson has his moments as the strict father, and Eve delivers a solid performance as Emily.

So I was on the edge of my seat during the grand finale for the reveal of the killer. After solving all the riddles and puzzles, Poe races to the local newspaper to confront the killer with a gun, forcing the killer to reveal Emily’s location. At first, we’re lead to believe it’s the editor in chief, but Poe spots his dismembered corpse sitting in front of a desk. The light bulb goes off in his head, and Poe turns around to see the real killer: Ivan Reynolds (Sam Hazeldine). Long story short, Reynolds is a pesky Edgar Allan Poe fanboy, who works under the editor in chief at the newspaper. Anyway,  Reynolds wanted to motivate a struggling and depressed Poe, so as his biggest fan, Reynolds decided to give Poe a much needed wake up call.

Let’s say a special someone decides to cook a mystery dinner for you. Candles are set, you’re dressed for a special occasion, and this special someone won’t stop bragging about the meal they cooked for you. A covered dish is placed in front of you, and when this special someone removes the top, you see a grilled chicken sandwich and some steamed potatoes in front of you. Reynolds is the grilled chicken sandwich and steamed potatoes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of those awful twists that can ruin a movie. The Raven does a good job of throwing some thought-provoking curveballs at you, and the steady, methodical pacing towards the finale really helps you feel the tension and suspense, but the Reynolds reveal is so underwhelming. I was expecting filet mignon with a loaded baked potato, or a succulent lobster meal, but in the end, The Raven didn’t deliver.

Also, The Raven is loaded with a lot familiar tropes. The obsessive and delusional fan, who kills in honor of  their idol (for a random example, think about The Fan with Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes), the supposedly cunning detective (Fields), the amateur (Poe), who’s forced to help solve the case, and I can’t forget about the typical rivalry between the overbearing father (Charles) and the unworthy boyfriend or husband (Poe). The Raven is filled with a lot of noticeable clichés, and it’s almost impossible to ignore them all.

Still, I enjoyed The Raven. Yeah, The Raven has some problems, but the whodunit game of cat and mouse is intriguing enough to hold your attention and keep you guessing until the very end. The Pit And The Pendulum scene (you’ll know it, when you see it) is pretty graphic and nasty, but overall, the blood and gore isn’t too disgusting or cringeworthy. Plus, Poe fans should appreciate The Raven’s numerous attempts to pay homage to Poe’s poetry and short stories (The Pit And The Pendulum, The Masque Of The Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, etc.), because The Raven is able to pay tribute to Poe, while working his more memorable and recognizable stuff into the current storylines. The Raven’s disappointing finale is a real shame, though. I’m tempted to go with a higher score, but the big reveal at the end needed more zing for a real payoff.

Rating: 6/10

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