Murders in the rue murk
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