From Hell is pure purgatory
The exploits of Jack the Ripper are explored... yet again. But this time with dreadful results in From Hell, starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham.
First of all, From Hell suffers from poor pacing. The action unfolds slowly in the bleak streets of England. To add to it, the killings are extremely gruesome, as the victims are disemboweled and have their throats slit. In fact, From Hell makes the Nightmare On Elm Street series seem tame by comparison.
Though directors Albert and Allen Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) take elaborate measures to recreate the locations of England (in Prague, no less), the film is brought down by poor dramatisation. The cinematography and plot is a reminder of Depp's 1999 fantasy film, Sleepy Hollow, in which Depp investigates a series of murders committed by a headless horseman.
But the Hughes Brothers are not Tim Burton, director of Sleepy Hollow. The storytelling here is tedious. and the characters not as compelling.
From Hell is set in 1888. Depp is the troubled Inspector Frederick Abberline, called in to investigate a grisly murder on the streets of Westchapel.
"No Englishman could commit this crime," says Abberline's superior (Ian Richardson), adding that a Native American, an 'Oriental' or a Jewish butcher have most likely committed the crime.
Abberline, of course, has other ideas. His investigation takes him to a physician, followed by Buckingham Castle and Scotland Yard. Yet, he is unable to solve the mystery as the bloody bodies continue to pile up.
Soon Abberline befriends a prostitute Mary Kelly (Graham) to find some answers (as the targets are all prostitutes).
Graham's role is brief and her romance with Depp's character is underdeveloped. The standout performance is by Depp. In the absence of other big names, he is the real star here. Depp, who has shown his prowess in unconventional films such as Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, is effective as the opium drenched policeman who manages to keep his head straight throughout.
In spite of its shortcomings, From Hell, which cost around $20 million, is expected to see good business with Halloween right around the corner. It debuted with $11.3 million, last weekend.
But if you're in the mood for something light, give this flick a miss.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm
Director: Albert and Allen Hughes
Screenplay: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell