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From Hell (2001)

  Starring: Robbie Coltrane, Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm
Links: From Hell on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 6.50 (2 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 121st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

From Hell (2001) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Sleepy Hollow (1999) and citizenjoe's review of Spider-Man 2 (2004).

"A Ripper movie, but not a ripper movie" - a review by mino

Ahh, Jack the Ripper. Has any other serial killing so captivated generations of people? Frankly, I very much doubt it. Everyone knows the basic gist of the Jack the Ripper story; everyone's seen one of the many movies, or read one of the many books, or otherwise come across the ongoing mystery that is the Ripper's identity.

So, if you feel like making a period thriller set in London, what better story to choose than From Hell (originally a ‘graphic novel’; or, as we used to call them, ‘comic books’)? Well, probably none, so here we are. From Hell is the story of Inspector Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp), a London police detective, who definitely stands firmly under the ‘good looking rebel who plays by his own rules’ umbrella. Called upon to investigate the first Ripper murder, Abberline quickly gets drawn into a web of intrigue and suspense, and rubs some of his superiors up the wrong way. Luckily for him, he also manages to rub prostitute Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) up the right way, and a friendship blossoms. Can Abberline track down the ripper before his new buddy is the next victim on the slab?

From Hell is not so much a detective story as a thriller. The detective-work elements seem to be almost an afterthought, and are neither enlightening nor particularly satisfying. Unfortunately, as far as thrillers go, I didn't find it very thrilling. Annoyingly, From Hell falls victim to the common Hollywood fallacy that having loud music is the same thing as having tension. The music should match what's happening on the screen; just saying ‘OK, we want people scared now, crank up the grinding electronica’ won't actually work. While you're learning this lesson, Hollywood, you might also realise that sudden cuts and quickly cycling camera angles, while a useful technique, serve to annoy more than they do heighten tension.

All up, From Hell smacks of trying too hard. There's some laughably obvious and clumsy symbolism, some truly ridiculous accents, some overly pat ‘olden days pop-culture’ references (John Merrick, the ‘Elephant Man’, appears in the movie why, exactly? In the words of Lisa Simpson, he has nothing to do with anything).

Luckily, the one thing From Hell does have is a great cast. Not only is Depp great, but so too are his support team, particularly Ian Holm as a helpful doctor, and Robbie Coltrane as Abberline's partner (Graham, alas, is one who does fail to impress). Much like Blow (2001), Depp manages to save an otherwise tepid movie from being a total waste of celluloid.

From Hell isn't the worst movie I've seen, not by a long shot: it is entertaining, but that's almost in spite of what happens, not because of it. See it, but don't expect too much.

(Oh, and sorry about the comic book crack. I know how touchy you graphic novel types can be.)

mino gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 10 Jan 2004

"Who was 'Jack the Ripper'?" - a review by pearly

It's the late 1880s, in the Whitechapel district. Over a period of a few months, 5 prostitutes are murdered; the suspect is nicknamed Jack the Ripper. To this day, the murderer has not been positively identified, although the list of reasonable suspects is down to a not-too-sizeable number (interestingly, one of the people on the suspect list is Lewis Carroll - author of Alice in Wonderland (1951), amongst other things).

The directors of From Hell have done everything to make this movie true to the actual events. The sets, constructed in Prague, are based on photos and drawings taken at the time of the murders, and are accurate to the last detail. Everything is picture-perfect. Everything, that is, except the plotline.

To make an interesting movie, these guys have decided that you can't just go down the "I wonder who did it?" path - you have to choose one of the possible paths, and go with that. And, not surprisingly, they seem to have gone with about the most fantastical of the possible suspects. Given the perfectionist nature of this piece, I am surprised that they didn't decide to do it as more of an historical reconstruction - leaving the bits that are unknown as just that, unknown. But then, I guess if they'd done that, they probably wouldn't have been able to show Johnny Depp (playing Detective Abberline) drinking Absinthe, and becoming romantically linked with Mary (Heather Graham).

From Hell is a very dark portrait of life during that time, both in visuals (possibly to do with the fact that it's mostly set at night-time, and electric light wasn't particularly prominent back then), and in goings-on (there is a focus on the differences between the poorer and the richer people). All told, it does make for interesting viewing, but I cannot help but think that it could have been more interesting with a totally different script.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 8 Jul 2002

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 6.50
Lowest rating: 6 (by mino)
Highest rating: 7 (by pearly)
 
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