The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a. Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical.
Helena Bonham Carter,
It is 1888 in London, and the unfortunate poor lead horrifying lives in the city's deadliest slum, Whitechapel. Harassed by gangs and forced to walk the streets for a living, Mary Kelly and her small group of companions trudge on through this daily misery, their only consolation being that things can't get any worse. Yet things somehow do when their friend Ann is kidnapped and they are drawn into a conspiracy with links higher up than they could possibly imagine. The kidnapping is soon followed by the gruesome murder of another woman, Polly, and it becomes apparent that they are being hunted down, one by one. Sinister even by Whitechapel standards, the murder grabs the attention of Inspector Fred Abberline, a brilliant yet troubled man whose police work is often aided by his psychic abilities. Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which takes on personal meaning to him when he and Mary begin to fall in love. But as he gets closer to the truth Whitechapel becomes more and ... Written by
Gloomy, down beat Victorian thriller that doesn't quite make the kill
"From Hell" is another Jack-the-Ripper yarn. This time around Johnny Depp plays Inspector Frederick George Abberline, who is investigating the work of a killer carving up the bodies of prostitutes in Whitechapel, London.
"From Hell" is a borderline horror/thriller. There is a fantastical element to the story as Depp receives visions of the killings, when "chasing the dragon" (or, in simpler terms, when doped up to his eye-balls). These visions are used to make mad-intuitive leaps on Abberline's parts to help push along the story-line, as the bodies begin to pile up. Unfortunately the killer is quite obvious as the script provides "red herrings" which are set up in a manner that you know they're going to be false, so the viewer is "surprised" (or not) when the real killer is revealed. That's a shame as it removes some of the mystery from the movie when you realise you got it right. There's also a rather interesting take on the murderer's reasoning, which is not entirely unwelcome, but does feel somewhat as if they need to pad out the story and distinguish it from other Ripper yarns.
Depp is, as usual, good. His accent appears a bit muddled however - where is he supposed to be from? But, as Hollywood standards go, it's better than average. Robbie Coltrane provides the humour (such as there is) by being Abberline's quipping side-kick, making dry observations of the situations he finds himself in. Coltrane has shown his acting skills in the TV series "Cracker" and he doesn't strain himself here, nor does he outshine himself. The rest of the cast are grand but Heather Graham, as the whore whom Depp falls for, is unconvincing as she looks far too pretty, and well mannered, to be a "lady of the night".
The direction is alright. The Hughes' brothers manage to convey a generally, downbeat and sombre tone to the proceedings. The vision sequences however come across as slightly comic-booky, a reminder of movies of the 60s/70s where they went overboard on filters and camera distortions in order to depict insanity. Far more effective is the bleak visions used in the TV show "Millennium" - here it tends to detract from the seriousness of the moment. Some of the scenes are fairly gory - it features a quite gruesome throat slashing - while other times the violence is seen purely in the reactions of others, without having to expose the viewer to it. Both of these work well. All in all the Hughes' acquit themselves because they fail to actually show a bright, clear image until the very very end of the movie, where the image is accompanied by one of the darkest in the movie. Thus they effectively capture the mood of the city and the times.
"From Hell" suffers from having a lack of tension and a script where characters tend to take on almost caricature tones (some of the prostitutes and the Nickel's gang in particular come across as ham-fisted). Nevertheless there's a mood to the movie, and Depp's performance is convincing enough to keep you watching until the decidedly downbeat end. Recommended for fans of the Victorian thriller/horror genre and those seeking a half-decent movie. 6.4/10
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