"One day, men will look back and say, I gave birth to the twentieth century,"
Jack the Ripper brags in the opening credits. FROM HELL, directed by the Hughes
Brothers, Albert and Allen Hughes, whose previous films (AMERICAN PIMP, DEAD
PRESIDENTS and MENACE II SOCIETY) were light-years away from English costume
dramas, offer us intriguing, if far fetched, answers to the questions of who
Jack the Ripper was and why he mutilated all of those prostitutes
The movie is absolutely mesmerizing with the images equally gross and
engrossing. Martin Childs's deliciously diabolical production design and Peter
Deming's dramatic cinematography give the picture a stunning look that one hopes
the Academy will remember when it comes time to vote. The London skyline lit
with hellish colors as ominous clouds move overhead is the best of the movie's
many memorable visuals.
The always amazing Johnny Depp plays the lead role of Inspector Frederick
Abberline, a drug addict who likes a little poison in his brew to get that extra
kick he needs to get his dreams in gear. His prescient nightmares, as well as
his Sherlock Holmes detective skills, enable him to solve unsolvable crimes.
Heather Graham, plays Mary Kelly, the lady of the night to whom the inspector
takes a shine. But, hey, she's Heather Graham, any man past puberty would go
for her. In a profession in which the women look like scullery maids and mud
wrestlers, Mary is the only one who looks like she just finished shooting a soap
commercial. But you didn't really want to see a dirty looking Graham when you
could see her in all her cream-skinned glory, did you? Mary looks to be on
Jack's short list unless the inspector can stop him first.
Jack's crimes are so heinous and disgusting that even the coroner pukes, and
frequently. Jack likes to slice up his victims quite professionally, taking
various internal organs home for souvenirs. This leads the inspector to suspect
someone other than a working class bloke, which draws scorn from his superior,
Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren (Ian Richardson). "An educated man?" Sir
Charles says, "That's preposterous!"
It was a time when the police didn't protect, and the doctors practiced
quackery. One kindly, old surgeon, Sir William Gull (Ian Holm) comes to advise
the inspector. When the surgeon worries that certain revelations may prove
dangerous, the inspector reassures him, "I'm well past the point of safe
Robbie Coltrane ("Cracker") is excellent as the inspector's sergeant. Sometimes
the case scares the sergeant, especially when he begins to sense where it is
leading. "I don't know what you're thinking, and I don't care to know," he
tells the inspector. Trust me, you're going to want to know. And you're going
to be on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out all of the details, even
though you'll quickly guess major parts of the mystery.
FROM HELL runs 2:01. It is rated R for "strong violence/gore, sexuality,
language and drug content" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes