Classic Intel: From Hell - Online Review

The problems build up and build up and then Graham pronounces 'Irish' as 'Oirish' and that's the final straw.

Sitting in the middle of From Hell, The Hughes Brother's adaptation of the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell graphic novel, are two odd casting choices. Surrounded by a bevy of genuine cockneys, Hughes and Hughes decide to plonk Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, two Americans, as the leads. Both proceed, unsurprisingly, to murder the accent as gruesomely as Jack The Ripper murders victims.

Rose-tinted spectacles are odd things and, through them, From Hell had grown in my eyes to be 'at least OK' and, on some occasions even, 'quite good'. This is not the case. The casting of the two leads is but one of a handful of ways in which the Hughes apparently attempt to justify Alan Moore's famous anger towards any and every adaptation of his work. They build up and build up and then Graham pronounces 'Irish' as 'Oirish' and that's the final straw.

Starting with the stars, the big problem, apart from not being able to speak proper (what, what), is that Depp is almost completely absent from this film for the first twenty to thirty minutes. Presumably, the time cut out could have, would have or perhaps was, used to explore his tragic back-story, which instead is only hinted at. Whilst this may have seemed like a good idea at the time, if only to get the run-time under two hours (From Hell still doesn't manage this), it completely cuts out all poignancy from the finale, which comes across as one of the biggest, most pointless, let downs imaginable.

That finale happens after the reveal of the murderer which, though more successful, is ill-hidden by the Hughes. Where the opening had all manner of people popping up as suspects, wielding knives around the place in a manner that could cause serious worry to one's arteries, from the halfway point onwards there's only one suspect and he's clearly as mad as a hatter.

From Hell also seems, and this may well be far and away its worst crime, a really lazy piece of film-making. The script, from Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias, is full of 'cor blimey' cockney-friendly nonsense, presumably so we won't doubt our leads credentials. In actual fact it makes us doubt them even more, dispersing this kind of rubbish to side characters like the bartender ('sling yer ook'), or the collection of ladies of the night stalked by our Ripper ('I'm not a blithering idiot'). Inconsistencies too are annoyingly abound, like Abberline's (Depp) propensity for putting pennies in dead people's eyes which lasts for exactly one corpse and one corpse only.

The good things that can be said about From Hell eventually add up to very little. Depp is great going full tilt for this sort of schlock but Sleepy Hollow, at the very least, is hugely more accomplished than this - and Depp greatly superior in it to here - and a case could even be made for The Ninth Gate and Secret Window, from a similar period. It is, of course, always a pleasure to see Robbie Coltrane in fantastic supporting mode, in major Hollywood fare but here he is no Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, or even a Hagrid. Without major factors to the contrary, the deduced conclusion must be that this is not 'at least OK' after all and is in fact a bit Tom Tit.




From Hell was showing on Sky Go and Sky On Demand.

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