Loosely based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel, the Hughes Brothers were criticized by Moore for replacing his “gruff” version of Frederick Abberline with an “absinthe-swilling dandy.” They should have been ready for that — Moore hasn’t enjoyed a single adaption of his work.
Here, the directors of Menace II Society, Dead Presidents and The Book of Eli go to Whitechapel to tell the story of who Jack the Ripper very well may have been.
Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her friends are all London prostitutes who must avoid violence whle trying to make a living with their bodies. When one of their friends, Ann Crook, is taken after her rich boyfriend returns, they learn that they are being hunted down and mutilated one by one. Soon, Whitechapel Police Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) is on the case, guided by psychic visions that he abates with opium.
His theory — which his partner Sergeant Peter Godley (Robbie Coltrane) doesn’t quite understand — is that the Ripper is a highly educated medical professional. After meeting with Sir William Gull (Ian Holm), the physician to the Royal Family, Abberline starts to see that there is a dark conspiracy behind everything, particularly the influence of the Freemasons.
The truth is that Gull is the killer, taking out the witnesses to painter Albert Sickert’s forbidden marriage and child with Crook. The bigger secret is that Sickert is Prince Albert, grandson of reigning Queen Victoria, and their daughter is a royal heir.
I don’t want to give away much more — I’ve already said so much — but nothing ends well, to say the least. While not as deep as Moore and Campbell’s graphic novel, this film has an interesting visual style and really depicts the squalor of London in the time of the Ripper. I really liked the way the opium visions and murderous messages were presented here. There’s really no reason for the Elephant Man to show up or the main characters’ romance, though. It all feels somewhat thrown in.