"From Hell" was loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, but could have been just a remake of "Murder by Decree" ('79), because both of the movies covered the same view / conspiracy theory on the Jack the Ripper's hideous killing spree and his true identity and motivations. The major difference is that in "Murder by Decree", the screenwriters used the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creations, Sherlock Holmes (played by Christopher Plummer) and Dr.Watson (played by James Mason) to hunt Jack the Ripper, but in terms of story / plot is basically the same, except that the 1979 Bob Clark's directed film have, in fact, a heart and soul and substance over style, which "From Hell" severely, lacks.
The Hughes Bros. came up with a flashy adaptation of the Ripper case, turning one of the greatest unsolved mysteries from the XIX century into a computer game with the player controlling Depp's character who wanders through the movie in a sleepwalking mode, being as inefficient as his Freemason superior, played by Ian Richardson, accused him to be.
The script is too predictable, not offering any layers or creative sub- plots, it's 'filmsy', everything appears or happens in the right moment in time to help the plot to move forward (can we even count the 'Deus ex machina' resolutions used, without being bored at it ?).
In the technical level, the movie scores as the production / art design, sets and costumes are good in the invocation of the Victorian Era and the gloomy cinematography is competently crafted.
In terms of acting, this kind of low life Inspector, addicted to opium, absinthe and laudanum, was tailor made to suit perfectly the Johnny Depp persona, even if his moody performance was too lifeless to carry on the movie. Heather Graham is attractive and likable as Mary Kelly, but she lacks acting chops. The supporting players did better with Robbie Coltrane elevating the scenes with Depp (almost stealing them from him) and Ian Holm, as always, was dementedly fabulous as the main villain. The virtually unknown actresses playing the ill-fated prostitutes (including the late British actress, Katrin Cartlidge as Dark Annie) were very good, especially in the dialect & the authenticity.
In short, "From Hell" is nice to look at, a visually engaging film, but unfortunately, even with all the style in the world, if it lacks substance and competent storytelling, it fails to achieve.
Perhaps this kind of gloomy "comic book movie" works better in fantasyland such as in the case of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", which was a critical and box office failure, but at least remained out of a "based on a real life case" and was just a dark adventure / fantasy escapism.
It worth a watch in a rainy Sunday afternoon, but nothing sort of memorable or a future cult-classic in the genre, if you're a fan of this take on the Jack the Ripper's true identity and motivations, there are far better movies covering the same premise, like the above mentioned: "Murder by Decree" ('79) or the earlier: "A Study in Terror" ('65) starring John Neville as Sherlock Holmes & Donald Houston as Dr. Watson and featuring an early appearance on-screen by Dame Judi Dench.