"Jesus, you. Really?"
The Raven starts out with a premise loaded with potential: a murderer in 1840s Baltimore is going around using the stories of Edgar Allen Poe (including a pretty well staged Pit & the Pendulum) for inspiration. Poe gets dragged in to help the Baltimore police solve the crime. Unfortunately, the writer decided to take that cool premise and graft it onto a hokie attempt to explain the last few days of Poe's life.
John Cusack is woefully miscast as Poe, and really, does he ever play anyone other than John Cusack? Almost as poorly miscast is Poe's love interest, Emily, played by Alice Eve, who you will remember from such buddy comedies as She's Out of My League and Entourage. I actually liked her in those, but never for one instant do you ever believe that either her or or Cusack are citizens of mid-19th century America. Worse, the two also have absolutely zero romantic chemistry together, which sort of undermines the peril we're meant to feel when the killer kidnaps her for bait.
One of the main bummers about the plodding script is that they so blatantly missed an opportunity to plum Poe's stories for inspiration in creating a proto-Sherlockian mastermind detective. Actually, I think that's exactly what they tried to do, but all Cusack and his inspector pal ever do is bumble about yelling at each other. It's like the screen writer knew what he was supposed to do: show how the brilliant mind who created Auguste Dupin could solve a real murder mystery to save his lovely Annabel Lee. That, I'm sure, was the pitch that got this thing green lit and Cusack to sign on. It just never ever ever comes close to showing those kinds of smarts.
This isn't to say it's totally unwatchable; hence the 2 stars. Even a miscast Cusack is still fairly interesting, and some of the side characters are decent. There's also one pretty great gore-scene (the pendulum!) and a buried-alive situation that is sure to give one the creeps. But the overall impression for me was of a missed opportunity.