When was this movie supposed to get interesting? Nevermore.
I’m not saying this movie was particularly bad or annoying. It’s just really generic. If you took Seven, mixed in equal parts of Sherlock Holmes and Scooby Doo, added a dash Batman’s the Riddler, and let it simmer for 111 minutes this is the film you would get.
The problems with this film is it just fails to meet expectations. The plot isn’t bad. However, given the source material and claims of being a mystery movie you would expect some kind of plot twist or horrific reveal. Instead we get a led by the nose mystery wherein the villain supplies handwritten clues for Poe to decode and a denouement that ends up being almost random. There is no satisfaction in a mystery solved when the killer just steps out and reveals himself. In spite of the fact that Edgar Allen Poe wrote of some of the most horrifically grisly murders imaginable and this movie has an R rating, with the exception of the pendulum scene all the murders are neutered of all gore and grimness. I saw a more graphic murder last night on the British Being Human. John Cusack acquits himself well but the character he has been given just doesn’t really feel like I would imagine Poe being; a tortured, melancholy, dark alcoholic who revels in gallows humor. Instead we basically get Sherlock Holmes without the deductive ability or English accent.
I think a big part of the disappointment for me is the fact that I am a John Cusack fan. He has been in several of my favorite movies, including Better Off Dead, Hi Fidelity, Gross Pointe Blank, and even Hot Tub Time Machine (Cherobly image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category). I think he is a talented actor and I enjoy his performances, even in this one. He brings real to the screen.
The story is of course about the last days of Edgar Allen Poe, American literary hero and father of modern horror. He is a destitute alcoholic who is struggling to make money from his past writing and fame. He is also in love with daughter of a rich Baltimore socialite, Emily (Alice Eve-Big Nothing, She’s Out of My League, Sex and the City 2). Her father (Brendan Gleeson-Troy, Gangs of New York, Braveheart) wisely thinks he is bad news and hates him. Meanwhile across town two women are murdered in a scene lifted from one of Poe’s stories. The detective (Like Evans-the Immortals, Clash of the Titans, the Three Musketeers) investigating regonizes the scene and hauls Poe in for questioning. Meanwhile a fat man suffer the Pit and the Pendulum death in the only murder scene worth anything. Turns out he was a literary rival of Poe and suspicion falls on him again. However, he (somehow?) convinces Detective Fields of his innocence and agrees to help in the investigation. Emily gets kidnapped out of a party and at that point the killer starts sending notes to Poe instructing him to follow the clues and keep investigating the murders or she dies.
Honestly if you took a massive bathroom break after the kidnap and came back about two minutes before the murderer is revealed you wouldn’t miss much (and as an aside, my recommendation for a bathroom break is any time after Emily gets kidnapped). Stuff happens. A couple more people die. A string of Scooby Doo-esque clues are followed. Other stuff happens. There is a fire in a random building that turns out to be Poe’s home so he moves in with Fields (did I mention there were elements of the Odd Couple in this?).
The stars. John Cusack did a good job with the acting. One star. I like the source material. One star. I am a fan of that period of American History, and they kept it in tone. One star. The pendulum scene was as grisly and horrible as the rest of the movie was not, in a good way. One star. Overall executed competently, with good pacing, dialog, and camera work with no obvious continuity issues or plot holes. One star. Total: five stars.
The black holes. A real failing to live up to it’s potential, but in plot and rated R material. I’m not asking for nudity here (although a little would have been appreciated) but if you are getting an R anyway why not make this fit in with the world in Edgar Allen Poe’s head? One black hole. With the exception of Fields and Poe, most of the characters were at best expository noise holes. Very two dimensional, even the killer. One black hole. I’m going to hit them for being derivative of a bunch of other movies without really taking a very singular character and making an original film around him. Basically a generic, boilerplate serial murder film sans horror. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of two stars. At least it stays positive. I won’t say I regret the time or money I spent on it, because really I didn’t. It’s not a bad, and there are parts you can really appreciate. I just don’t know if it really holds up to a lot of the other movies coming out right now. I think this movie will do great as a late night let’s just watch something kind of film. Date movie? Not really, unless she is a huge John Cusack fan.
Thanks for reading. I will see Safe and Pirates this week, so keep checking back. Also, something Jason wrote the other day about female superhero movies got me thinking about it and discussing it with my friend, so I think I will write something about that tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu or email me at email@example.com if you have any specific questions or suggestions (or if you work for a studio and want to hook me up with some kind of advanced screening). If you have comments about this review feel free to post here. Talk to you soon.