Sign in using your account with
The Raven: Suspense-less Thriller Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Work
A deranged groupie has taken Edgar Allen Poe’s (Cusack) literature a little bit too literally. He goes on a killing spree using different murders from Poe’s stories as inspiration, where each murder contains a clue to the next. The murderer starts improvising though and kidnaps Poe’s girlfriend, Emily (Eve), to draw the author closer in; taunting him. The murderer orders Poe to write a story and publish it in the newspaper where he works, based on the murderous actions. In the story, Poe both immortalizes the killer and shapes his future actions.
This is a film with a decent concept that just doesn’t work out. Making a murder-mystery out of bits of Poe’s literary tales could have been pretty interesting, but it basically boils down to us hopping from one gruesome murder to the next. There isn’t even much connecting one murder with the next. Also, by having Poe translate the murderer’s escapades into fiction the film has a very strong going-through-the-motions vibe, killing any sense of suspense or tension.
The characters aren’t much better either. Cusack’s character of Poe is a depressed alcoholic with a raging ego and an insufferable sense of superiority – basically a cliché of an artist. Eve’s character Emily is pretty and, unfortunately, doesn’t get much of a chance to transcend that trait seeing as she’s stuck in a box for most of the film. Also, Poe is at least double her age and is probably old enough to be her father. Their relationship is kind of creepy and you wouldn’t be wrong in completely empathizing with Emily’s father who does his best to keep them away from each other. Luke Evans plays Detective Fields, the officer in charge of the investigation and the man who first makes the connection between the murders and Poe’s stories. He does a decent job not least because he isn’t saddled with the ‘artistic,’ heavy-on-the-synonyms dialogue that Cusack has to deal with.
At the very least, the film looks good even though it’s not as extravagant as other period films. It has a very Gothic feel with its bleak palette and reams of fog unfurling everywhere, which does manage to give the film a vaguely foreboding feel. The murder scenes are pretty gory, the costumes look good and are sufficiently showcased in the scene of a ball.
The film is disappointing on two levels: it squandered a cool concept and it ended up a completely by-the-numbers thriller.
There’s no real reason why Hollywood hasn’t totally embraced Jake Gyllenhaal; but it just hasn’t. While he may not fit the mould of the empirical Hollywood hunk, he has proven in the last five years that he can carry a movie and carry it will – which is the case in boxing drama, Southpaw.
A traditional story of redemption through and through, the Antoine Fuqua-directed film falls into the same pitfalls that the majority of sports films fall into, but it’s the performance of Gyllenhaal and Fuqua’s ability to put together memorable scenes that give Southpaw its worth.
The story tells of world champion boxer, Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal), and his struggle to cope with the death of his wife Maureen (McAdams) during a brawl with a prospective – and of course cocky and arrogant –challenger. An injury that threatens his ability to see, a quick descent into guilt-ridden alcoholism, growing debt and the loss of his daughter to child protection services are just a few of the things that drive Hope to taking a job at a gym, where he meets Titus ‘Tick’ Wills (Whitaker), who helps Billy get on the track to recovery.
There are plenty of clichés flying about in Southpaw, but there are moments that will send a little shiver down your spine and linger long after the credits roll – and it’s largely owed to Mr Gyllenhaal. He’s intense, he’s committed and he’s utterly convincing as a man trying to get his life back on track after a horrific incident that he comes to blame himself for. At times, the plot feels formulaic – and it is, almost verging on predictable – but it’s a formula that is executed well; Fuqua, like he did with Training Day, has a knack of infusing single scenes with a huge amount of emotion, passion and intensity.
This is not Rocky – it’s grim, it’s grey and it doesn’t necessarily glamorise boxing and the spectacle that surrounds it. This is not a film that will win awards or be talked about in twenty years as a classic, but it certainly is an emotional ride.
There are few actors that commit to their roles as much as Benecio Del Toro, no matter how small; the Puerto Rican actor is approaching his fiftieth birthday, but only seem to be getting better with age, as he demonstrates quite spectacularly at times as one of the most infamous drug-lords of the past century in Escobar: Paradise Lost.
While the title would suggest this is a film documenting the remarkable life of Escobar, it’s not; in fact, he’s almost plays an antagonist in the film – and that’s the movie’s biggest problem. While it never pretends to be an Escobar biography, Del Toro is simply more interesting than the main narrative, which switches from romance, to thriller, to gun-toting action in its 120 minute running time.
Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson is technically the lead and the young actor takes on the role of a Canadian thrust into Escobar’s world after he falls for the Colombian kingpin’s niece, played by little-known actress, Claudia Traisac.
While Hutcherson occasionally injects the character of Nick with the right kind of youthful naivety, he cowers in the presence of Del Toro’s portrayal of Escobar, relegating the character to nothing more than a bit-part player – both in Escobar’s world of crime and in the context of the film. It disrupts the flow of the film somewhat; while Hutcherson and Traisac’s on-screen romance takes centre-stage in the first third of the film, by the time Escobar is injected into proceedings, Del Toro’s sheer magnetism leaves little room for you to maintain interest, let alone root for, Hutcherson’s character.
As the directorial debut of Andrea Di Stefano, this is a solid piece of work from the Italian director – but at the same time, there’s a lingering sense that suggests that this project could have been so much more if the eponymous character was also the main one – such is Del Toro’s charisma and Escobar’s endlessly remarkable life story.
Shot entirely in Panama, everything looks as it should be and it further contributes to the aesthetic domain of Escobar, where Nick, rightly, stands out like a sore thumb. But by the end of the film, one can’t help but wonder what Di Stefano and Del Toro could have achieved with an adjusted script.