From Hell (18)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/02/2002

Three out of five stars
Running time: 122 mins

Stylishly photographed and suitably atmospheric, the film nonetheless takes too many liberties to please fans of the comic book and is almost completely scuppered by Heather Graham’s atrocious performance.

From Hell is adapted from comic-book supremo Alan Moore’s painstakingly thorough, epic-length graphic novel about the Jack the Ripper case.

Predictably, its Hollywoodisation has messed around with large chunks of it, thereby annoying several of its fans along the way. However, what remains is extremely stylish and atmospheric and remains watchable, providing you can ignore the crimes against acting committed by Heather Graham.

Johnny Depp stars as Inspector Abberline, who is a gruff, portly, middle-aged northerner in the comic-book, but here he’s a not-exactly-ordinary-looking opium-addicted cockney who’s plagued by psychic visions of the Ripper’s victims. ("Satura’ed…wi’ blood!").

He’s accompanied by Robbie Coltrane’s gruff, northern, Shakespeare-quoting detective, whose final lines threaten to send the whole enterprise into high camp.

Depp and Coltrane are called in to work on the Jack the Ripper case – the title of the film comes from the taunting return address left on the envelopes the Ripper sends the police.

All they have to go on initially is the fact that the mutilations look ‘professional’ and that the killer likes to lure his victims with bunches of grapes (the look of joy with which the victims eye the grapes also raises a few giggles).

Eventually, however, they begin to suspect that the killings may be the result of a much larger conspiracy, possibly one that goes all the way to Queen Victoria herself…

The film is set in Whitechapel (though actually filmed in Prague) and looks fantastic, particularly the blood-drenched skies. However, it does veer dangerously close to "Rat on a stick! Get yer rat on a stick ‘ere guv’nor!"-territory in its attempt to recreate authentic Victorian poverty.

The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Depp’s cockney accent takes a lot of getting used to, but works well enough, despite being somewhat incongruous with the idea of an educated detective. The majority of the supporting cast (Coltrane, Jason Flemyng, Ian Holm etc) acquit themselves well enough, but the actresses playing the prostitutes over-do it considerably.

No-one, however, is worse than Heather Graham, playing wide-eyed ‘tart with a heart’ Mary Kelly as a prostitute who doesn’t actually appear to do any prostituting and manages to look clean and healthy, even though all her colleagues look filthy and unkempt.

It’s her ‘Cor blimey guv’nor’ accent that really grates though – at one point she announces she is Irish, something which comes as a complete surprise to the audience. Note to producers: no one wants to see Heather Graham acting with her clothes on.

In short, From Hell is watchable enough, providing you are suitably unfamiliar with the source material and assuming you can ignore Heather Graham’s abysmal performance.

Film Trailer

From Hell (18)
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Content updated: 23/07/2018 18:19

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