From Hell (2001)

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From Hell: Directed by Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes. With Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane. In Victorian-era London, a troubled clairvoyant police detective investigates the murders of Jack the Ripper.

“The critics, nit-pickers and historical pedants whou0026#39;ve trashed this superb piece of truly cinematic movie-making have totally missed the point.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSo what if Johnny Deppu0026#39;s English accent isnu0026#39;t exactly u0026quot;rightu0026quot; for his character? (English accents have always been problematic for all but the most skilled of American actors: Depp pulls it off entirely passably, way way better than – say – Keanu Reeves, risible in Coppolau0026#39;s Dracula. Think of Kevin Costner, who didnu0026#39;t even bother trying in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.) Iu0026#39;m a Londoner by birth, and for me the accent in no way detracted from Deppu0026#39;s excellent performance.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAs for history, again, who cares if the filmmakers have employed a degree of dramatic licence? This is a movie, not a documentary. Nobody knows for sure who Jack the Ripper was, and in order to make the film interesting and enjoyable the writers have speculated a little. Fine by me.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eOK, so Heather Graham was impossibly glamorous, but movies with big budgets need a little bit of star appeal. The notion of the u0026quot;tart with a heartu0026quot; is a cliché, sure, but nevertheless her character works in the context of the film. (Contrast the depiction of prostitution generally in this film with the utter garbage that is Pretty Woman.)u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWhatu0026#39;s so great about this film? The quirky, literate script; the performances (all, with the possible exception of Graham, excellent); the wonderful photography and production design; the depiction of the murders themselves – elliptical, shocking, mesmerising; and above all the aura of brooding menace, gloom, cruelty, darkness, melancholy and downright despair running through it as deeply as the veins through a block of marble. This is marvellously thoughtful, evocative film-making, very bold and brave. No happy Hollywood ending, no phoney saccharine or cheap laughs to satisfy the popcorn brigade. This is a proper grown-ups movie that probes some of the darkest regions of the human psyche, places mainstream filmmakers like Lucas, Spielberg, James Cameron and their ilk donu0026#39;t dare to go, or couldnu0026#39;t go even if they wanted to. To me it appeals almost on a subconscious level, forcing us to confront our deepest fears and taboos – death, pain, suffering, human wickedness. I canu0026#39;t think of a recent major release that is so relentlessly downbeat.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eDonu0026#39;t let the detractors put you off. Itu0026#39;s hardly surprising a generation weened on MTV – folk with the the attention span of a gnat and the emotional depth of a paper cup – didnu0026#39;t like it. Theyu0026#39;ve got their Screams and their Scary Movies, and theyu0026#39;re welcome to them. This is super stuff, and the Hughes brothers and their collaborators should be heartily congratulated for it.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eA classic, not so much for the plot, which is a little contrived, but for its sure command of cinema as a visual storytelling medium.”

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