Johnny Depp continues his streak of dark movies, hitting the streets of late 19th century London as an Inspector investigating the Jack the Ripper murders.
The crimes are brutal, the circumstances are mysterious, Depp is a drug addict, and there is a huge conspiracy at work; these are the conditions that the Hughes brothers bring to the big screen in From Hell.
Depp stars as Inspector Abberline, who isn't quite as weird as he was in Sleepy Hollow, but still has his share of oddities. He can foresee the victims before they are slain, but it really doesn't do much good, since they end up being slain anyway. His little dreams serve as a way to show off the murders in an artistic way, and, for the most part, they succeed. Depp is pretty good, but his performance isn't extraordinary, and doesn't really stand out at all. His character isn't overly interesting, but it serves its purpose.
Heather Graham also stars as a London prostitute who, along with her friends, is being hunted by the infamous killer. She proves that she can pull off a British accent, and her character is pretty likeable, but I think it is fair to say that there are two different reasons she is in this movie. It's hard not to notice that she walks around with her breasts halfway hanging out the entire movie. Not that that's a bad thing.
From Hell is based on a graphic novel, but having not read that novel I really don't know how closely the movie sticks to the story. Surely, though, the movie is barely indicative of fact; Depp's telepathic nature, the huge conspiracy underlying the murders, and everything else is pretty fictional. As far as the story goes, however, it manages to keep everything quite serious. The entire movie is dark, really never trying to be funny like most movies do these days, and the setting is always creepy. There is always a sense of suspense, but at some times the story gets so bogged down with subplots that it is hard to keep track, and I became confused, and a little bored. As for Depp's telepathic nature, it is really kept subdued, so the movie is fairly believable.
The thing that really hurts From Hell is its predictability. While it is unclear whether Graham's character will live or die, the identity of Jack the Ripper (which is, of course, not his true identity) can be guessed about halfway through the film. I must really scorn the Hughes brothers for making it so obvious; they purposely try to make the man responsible about as subdued as possible, as if the audience can't see through that obvious shield, and at the same time flaunt that Jack the Ripper has a huge ring on his finger, which matches the ring on his ulterior identity. The scene where the identity is revealed to us is pretty cool, but at the same seems a little out of date, since you knew it was coming forty-five minutes earlier.
I usually like conspiracy films, but the conspiracy in From Hell is a little confusing. And confusing usually isn't bad, but it seems as though the screenwriters were confused as well. I think the conspiracy also takes away from Jack the Ripper's essence, since most people picture him as one insane, screwed up individual. Actually, the man who does play Jack the Ripper does portray a good psycho, but his insanity is toned down by the conspiracy's plot. To put it in simpler terms: Jack the Ripper is not just killing for pleasure; he is killing specific people to hide the truth of something.
From Hell is a well done film with a compelling plot, but it sometimes becomes confused with itself, and it would have been nice to see a little more insanity and a little less cover up.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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