(2012) directed by James McTeigue of V for Vendetta
and The Matrix
fame.Movies you've seen lately
In the 19th century, a serial killer begins murdering victims using methods from Edgar Allan Poe's stories. Poe himself teams up with a young Baltimore detective to get inside the murder's mind and try and stop more of his fictional works becoming grisly fact. As the hunt intensifies, Poe's own love, Emily Hamilton, becomes a target for the killer.
It opens with the last few minutes of Edgar Allen Poe's life. Alone on a park bench in the early morning we find Poe dying under those actual mysterious circumstances
which have puzzled scholars and amateur historic investigators since 1849.
The rest of the film becomes an extended flashback of what lead up to that moment. And all in all, it looks very promising.
Set in foggy mid-1800s Baltimore with a cast that includes John Cusak, Luke Evans, and period piece veteran Kevin McNally, what could possibly go wrong?
The short answer is: Plenty
Within the first 20 minutes you understand why Ewan McGregor and Jeremy Renner were originally cast as the leads only to drop out before shooting began - and why Joaquin Phoenix and Noomi Rapace turned down offered roles outright.
If you're going to do a period
film, there should beat at least some
a token nod towards the times by adopting the images, gestures, speech and culture of the era being presented. But in this case, about the only thing that came close was the sets and cinematography - which were gorgeous for the most part.
Where it fell down was in the acting. For some reason, all the characters used their natural voice - which is to say 21st century tone and idiom
. Seriously, how much historic tone can you set when the characters toss around such modern terms as 'serial killer' and act and talk like some of today's city cops?
Also, if this is 19th century Baltimore, shouldn't there be at least a few characters with a hint of a Southron's accent? The weird mincing voice Cusak's Poe used is almost painful to hear coming from a guy we all know can act.
If the cast had been unknowns it would be one thing. But this cast has credentials and experience - so there's really no excuse for them destroying the illusion they way they did - script or no script.
Which brings us to the flawed screenplay. Which is a shame because the overall story concept was quite solid even though the writers never quite refined it enough to tie up all the loose plot ends - or fix some glaring holes in the script. Something about this script made it feel like it got rushed into production. It easily could have benefited from a major rewrite. Or two
Give this film a solid 5 for cinematography, costumes, and set design - and a low 2 for just about everything else.