From Hell (2001)

imageThe Hughes Brothers direct Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm in this gothic take on Alan Moore’s comic book adaption of the Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution theory.

A thoroughly disjointed film hampered most of all by a transparent lead performance by Depp (he clearly doesn’t want to be there). Heather Graham tries her hardest as the tart with a heart, and uniquely half a brain. I can’t help but wonder if this take on the much filmed mystery might have benefited from her as the sole lead; her Mary trying to protect her fellow working girls would anchor the narrative to everything else the script and its source grabs at greedily (Masonic conspiracies! Anti Semitic tensions! The rise of the Tabloid! The Elephant Man! Drugged up tripping detectives!) and also present a slightly more palatable, modern difference to the traditional whodunnit entertainment spun again and again from a fascinating but grim real life social tragedy. As a casual Ripperologist myself, it is a bit galling this will be seen as the definitive take from Hollywood on the source, theory and agreed events. There’s just no thrill nor verisimilitude to it and while some moments are visually inventive, others have all the craft of a particularly saucy episode of Crossroads. Worth picking through despite its indegistible chunks though.


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