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Deadly dull 'The Raven' sullies Poe's memory

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By Robert Horton
Herald Movie Critic
  • John Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe in "The Raven."

    Associated Press

    John Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe in "The Raven."

Edgar Allan Poe is no action hero in "The Raven." He can leave that stuff to Sherlock Holmes, thank you very much.
Still, "The Raven" suggests that the great, doomed American writer might have gotten involved in actual detective casework. You know what's coming: a serial killer is on the loose in Baltimore in 1849, and he's using methods cribbed from the work of the disreputable author, E.A. Poe.
So you can't blame the local police for calling on the writer himself to join the investigation. If they can scour the local taverns to find him, that is; Poe has no money and a sizable thirst.
Poe is played by John Cusack, which should have been a useful choice in the vein of Robert Downey Jr. playing Sherlock Holmes, but is not as much fun as it sounds. Cusack's tendency to bellow his lines while declaiming lines of poetry (and his own genius as a writer) grows monotonous after a while.
A police detective (Luke Evans, recently Zeus in "Immortals") draws Poe into the sleuthing, which is much more boring than anything Poe ever wrote. Even when Poe's beloved (Alice Eve) is put in peril, the film itself barely generates even superficial interest.
There's an attempt at depicting Poe as a wise-cracking wit, and Cusack knows how to put a spin on that kind of dialogue. There's even a throwaway gag about how the French are the only nation to truly understand the genius of Poe, a moment that falls flat and stays there.
The Oscar Wilde one-liners don't sit too comfortably with the occasional "Pit and the Pendulum" outbreaks of bloody violence, which appear to be included to satisfy the gorehounds.
So, no, director James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta") does not have a flair for mixing comedy and violence. But even so, did "The Raven" have to be so unspeakably dull?
This thing is about as lively as Poe's M. Valdemar, that unfortunate character stuck in a trance between life and death. I'll take a little bad taste as a trade-off for keeping the momentum up, but this movie can't even make a live burial worth getting excited about.
The low-budget 1960s Poe adaptations created by director Roger Corman and Vincent Price departed from the original material by a long distance, but at least they conjured up some actual flavor of the macabre. It's hard to imagine anybody being curious about Edgar Allan Poe, or his hallucinatory writing, after seeing this sorry mess.
"The Raven" ( stars)
Edgar Allan Poe (played by John Cusack) himself is called in on a Baltimore case about a serial murderer who uses plot devices from Poe's stories. Fine, but did the movie have to be so dull? This movie, with vague hints of the recent "Sherlock Holmes" re-boot, can't even make a live burial exciting.
Rated: R for violence, subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Marysville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.
Story tags » Movies

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