Color Me Shitty: From Hell is an Awful Film
Everything the Hughes Brothers touch turns to crap in their latest movie
Ever spent two hours wading through filth, blood, human organs, and obnoxious British accents? Well now you can, with the release of From Hell, the Hughes Brother’s paeon to Victorian London: you know, the good ol’ days, when everything was dark and dirty, opium dens were the place to hang out after work, and everyone was happily divided into whores and johns. Sounds like fun, right? Well it might have been, if the movie wasn’t dull, underwritten, overpopulated with red herring characters (who are all, inexplicably, nearly identical), and intent on laying down and rolling around in every nauseating murder committed by Jack the Ripper: the disembowlments, the genital mutilations, the trick where you pull out someone’s heart and take a bite out of it – they’re all here. From Silence of the Lambs to Seven to Mortal Kombat, the Hughes Brothers have managed to cover every last chapter from the movie killer’s handbook, and the results are about as interesting and rote as a live reading of Serial Homicide for Dummies
Of course, From Hell has a major problem right from the outset: why would anyone in an American audience want to spend even two hours in London? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no one deserves to be subject to London except for Londoners. True, this is not the London of Notting Hill, no one’s trying to candy-coat anything here – the film is called From Hell, after all. And I have to give the Hughes Brothers credit in their recreation – as we all know, London is a horrible, dirty place filled with immoral and hypocritical people, the weather is terrible, and the quality of life is abysmal. To this end, they’ve done a commendable job. But by the same token: is an honest depiction of London any better than a crappy Hollywood mock-up of London when your subject matter is a murder investigation? In the end, From Hell’s London does not look or feel all that much different from Seven’s New York or Batman’s Gotham or Sleepy Hollow’s, er, Sleepy Hollow. Now, if Bridget Jones’s Diary had taken place in From Hell’s London, that would have been a movie worth seeing.
So what happens in this movie? Jack the Ripper kills people. Johnny Depp smokes opium and drinks absinthe (in the year’s third? fourth? extensive absinthe drinking scene, which does nothing but contribute to the retarded ‘national trend’ of pretentious idiots drinking fake absinthe in bars). The whores whore. The sidekick provides (minimal) comic relief. The old white guys provide wisdom and guidance. And the coroner vomits. Yes that old trick, the vomiting coroner. In this movie, though, I don’t know why everyone isn’t vomiting: the murder scenes start out excessive and just get worse as the movie goes on – while at the same time, the actual investigation comes in quick, nonsensical bursts that are cut short in order to make way for the grisly depiction of Victorian-era lobotomies. Needless to say, not one scene in the movies give us any information about who the mystery killer is, why he does what he does, or a reason to suspect anyone. In fact, I spent much of the movie just trying to tell the male characters apart. The coroner and Depp’s sidekick look exactly alike. Two of the characters look just like Depp. And I’m pretty sure that the rest of the characters (apart from the whores) are portrayed by a single gray-haired white guy.
The only interesting performance in the movie comes from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels’s Jason Flemyng, who plays Jack the Ripper’s administrative assistant. If the Hughes Brothers knew what they were doing, they would have made him the focus of the movie, given him a problem with clumsiness, and maybe paired him with Rowan Atkinson as Flemyng’s out-of-work drinking buddy trying to convince Flemyng to get him a job with the Ripper, too. As it is, Flemyng was given exactly two scenes.
What else is there to say? The ending is just as underwhelming as the rest of the movie. After sleepwalking through the whole movie, Depp is finally confronted with the Ripper himself, and manages to rouse himself into a barely-miffed state in order to say some derogatory things to the Ripper. It is, undoubtedly, the weakest homicide detective-serial killer confrontation ever recorded on film. From there the film sputters to an end, with Johnny back in the opium den, Heather moving to rural Kentucky, and the old white guy (as killer and Free Mason judge) sentencing himself to something. The Queen is in there too somewhere, but I tell you, it’s so unmemborable, I’d probably need some deep hypnotherapy even to recall what she does or why she does it. And I’d probably need some kind of Victorian lobotomy to care.