October 11, 2012

Filthy Review - 'The Raven'

The Raven (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

As a fan of all things macabre, it surprises me that in all my years I have never sat down and read any of the works of Edgar Allen Poe. What? You might say, but there are only so many hours in the day and it’s just never happened. Of course, I have seen many of the numerous movie adaptations of his work, but never read any. By add salt to this gaping wound, I should add that on the bookshelf at home we do actually have Poe’s complete works in one mighty tome. I endeavor to rectify this in the near future.

That be as it may, The Raven is not based on Poe’s writings, instead it follows Poe towards the end of his life. His best days are behind him, and he rests on the laurels of his past successes, spending his time drinking and critiquing other writers in less than flattering ways. Put quite simply; Poe has become a bitter drunk, albeit a very funny one.

In a strange twist of fate though, someone is murdering the folk of Baltimore, and they are doing it in a manner that mimics the work of Poe. A young detective, Emmett Fields, is assigned to take on the investigation, and all paths lead to Poe being the prime suspect. I mean, who else could it possibly be? Well, without spoiling anything for you, it is obviously not Poe who himself joins in the investigation as the crimes hit closer to home.

The Raven is quite the entertaining movie, which in large part is due to the lead performance from John Cusack as Poe. He plays the role with a certain extravagance, whilst never letting it topple over into manic over-acting; there’s a restraint to it, which makes it all the more believable. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of Luke Evans as Fields. What starts out as a solid performance, soon becomes increasingly annoying, with Fields character having to resort to endless bouts of repetitive shouting.

Visually, The Raven is one hell of a nice movie, with even some suspect CGI (during one gruesome murder) not being able to spoil it. The filmmakers have done a terrific job of recreating 1840’s Baltimore, and the menacing events that are occurring. This is further enhanced on the Blu-ray version, which quite simply is a terrific viewing experience.

What The Raven manages to achieve is to bring the viewer an exciting detective story, with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure. It isn’t a historical document of Poe’s life, no more than Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires is. The idea behind the plot, for me, is one of pure entertainment and one that works quite well. The film does get a little much towards the end, with the aforementioned shouting from Fields reaching its peak, and don’t get me started on the closing credits. Whose bloody idea was it to have an almost Bond-esque visual and aural montage? Flick the movie off, just before the credits start so you don’t have to put up with this poor idea.

The Blu-ray version comes with a wealth of extras, including an audio commentary and various behind the scenes features.

There aren’t many John Cusack movies that I don’t like, and The Raven won’t be joining that very short list. I would hazard a guess that had someone else played the role of Poe I may well have been disappointed with the movie. As it stands though, Cusack brings life and enthusiasm to the role, which coupled with the atmosphere, makes this a wholly entertaining movie. The Raven does have its flaws, but as a slice of slick and grisly entertainment you could do far worse than to give The Raven the once over.

The Raven is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.


Christine Hadden said...

Glad to see this getting a good review somewhere! I'm so anxious to see it but it seems people have been hard on it so far. Now I'm excited to get it! I too, love Cusack, so it should work for me too :)

Lord of Filth said...

I'd heard mixed reports too, but ended up really enjoying it. As I mentioned, it has its issues here and there, but on the whole it's an entertaining flick :)

Christine Hadden said...

Just watched it last night, and I agree - I enjoyed it quite a bit. Thought Cusack was quite hilarious at times, and the whole look of the film was beautiful.