When a thriller features an author famous for a story about an incessantly beating heart, the movie has no excuse not to make viewers’ chests pound, too.
Sadly, “The Raven” turns a fictionalized take on the last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s (John Cusack) life into a routine investigation of a serial killer, albeit one modeling his work after Poe’s writing. “I believe the killer is taunting us,” says detective Fields (Luke Evans), since that’s what detectives always say in this situation. Never a suspect but seen as a valuable asset to the case, Poe aims to find the murderer and protect his fiance (Alice Eve), who’s helpless in the face of her man’s romantic way with words.
Cusack struggles to present the arrogant author as both a tortured genius and a credible investigator—thank you, writers, for avoiding a terrible joke about the Poe-lice—while director James McTeigue (“Ninja Assassin”) fares better with images of a head tilted slightly off the neck, rather than gruesome “Saw”-like torture devices. People do like the gory ones, Poe’s editor (Kevin McNally) points out, but “The Raven” grinds along without the craft or the shocking powers of its subject. Given the option, you’d skip to the end, read the last few pages and move along.
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