"The Raven" is a movie that adds up to little more than the pitch meeting that spawned it: Edgar Allan Poe, celebrated master of the macabre, does battle with a serial killer in an atmosphere of "Se7en"-like depravity.
This isn’t a bad idea for a movie, really; but the picture that has resulted from it, directed by James McTeique ("V for Vendetta"), is a lumpy and uninvolving mess.
The film’s conceit is that Poe, who died in Baltimore in 1849, in somewhat mysterious circumstances, spends the five days before his demise assisting police in tracking down a murderer who is staging his killings in the manner of some of the writer’s most famous tales. The first of these, involving a pit and a huge, razor-edged pendulum (and a doomed literary critic strapped down beneath it), is grotesque in a vintage David Fincher way, but exceedingly farfetched: how would the murderer go about constructing such an enormous death machine without coming to someone’s attention?
Further improbabilities pile up as the movie lumbers along.The picture’s central weakness is its star. Casting the amiable and hearty-looking John Cusack as the dissolute Poe was an insurmountable mistake: no matter how much he raves and lurches around bars and newspaper offices, Cusack could never be mistaken for a starving artist.
Read the full review at Reason.com