Mur­ders in the rue murk

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

IN RE­CENT YEARS, as cable tele­vi­sion has con­tin­ued its tyranny of qual­ity, we’ve seen far too few cop shows hung around stupid high con­cepts. A fat man (who lives on a boat) solves crimes with his par­rot. An al­co­holic ven­tril­o­quist (who lives on a boat) solves crimes with a jug­gler. You re­mem­ber the sorts of things.

Thank good­ness for the movies. James Mcteigue – di­rec­tor of the baf­fling cult phe­nom­e­non V For Ven­detta – of­fers us a thriller about a hor­ror writer who solves mur­ders in­spired by his own sto­ries. And it’s not just any writer. It’s the pop­u­lar, boozed-up lib­er­tine Edgar Al­lan Poe.

Yes, the sce­nario is more than a lit­tle fa­mil­iar. We had mur­ders based on the seven sins in Se7en. We had mur­ders based on Shake­speare plays in the great Bri­tish hor­ror Theatre of Blood. But this set-up is bound to gen­er­ate some larks and jolts. Isn’t it? If only. You will look hard to find a project that fails so mis­er­ably to live up to its premise.

John Cu­sack is woe­fully mis­cast in the cen­tral role. A tall, healthy fel­low, with a very mod­ern de­liv­ery, the lik­able Ir­ish-amer­i­can could not seem less like Mr Poe if he were wear­ing a dress and rid­ing a mo­tor bike. He is not helped by di­a­logue that seems un­sure whether to em­brace mod­ern ver­nac­u­lar or ape Vic­to­rian rhythms and struc­tures. At times one feels one­self stranded in a miss­ing episode of Black­ad­der.

More se­ri­ously still, the writ­ers have made no ef­fort to house their con­cept in a con­vinc­ing – or even lu­cid – plot. Rather than ac­cu­mu­lat­ing clues that click to­gether to form a dis­cern­able puz­zle, Poe and his de­tec­tive col­leagues are bom­barded with a ran­dom se­ries of equally un­in­ter­est­ing non-se­quiturs. Then, as the cred­its loom over the archetyp­i­cally fog-bound gable roofs, a bland, su­per­nat­u­rally per­func­tory so­lu­tion falls con­ve­niently into their sur­prised laps.

We re­ally should end with some con­trived ref­er­ence to a Poe story. No burial would be pre­ma­ture enough. Will that do?

Tell-tale twad­dle: John Cu­sack as Edgar Al­lan Poe

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