Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde

Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

It's said that when Robert Louis Stevenson originally wrote Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde he was so struck by the evil of it that he threw his manuscript into the fire. Were he around to watch this modern update, he'd probably want to do the same thing.

This is a story which has been told many times in many different ways. It's one of those tales that continues to captivate people because it has such strong primal elements - madness, loss of self-control, a murderous monster, women in peril, and a desperate hero - yet this time around it's delivered so ham-fistedly that all this is lost in a sea of mediocrity. In bringing the story up to date, scriptwriter Paul B Margolis has also latched on to modern crime drama tropes, so that what we get is a sort of Law And Order: Special Supernatural Unit, the red blooded vigour of the original played out as American courtroom drama.

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This film went straight to TV in America, and it's easy to see why. Its formulaic direction and its supply of stock scenes, like the fleeing prostitute and the hospital patient about to be murdered in his bed, might comfortably fill a Thursday night slot after the news, but on the big screen they just look shoddy. Where we might have at least hoped for a monster, all we get as an indicator of Jekyll's transformation into his evil alter ego is Dougray Scott's gurning and a bit of wobbly camerawork. This isn't to say that relying on acting couldn't be an effective way to handle things - but to make it work, one would need to choose somebody who could act. Whatever promise Scott showed in his early career, with the likes of Ripley's Game, has sadly deserted him.

Although Stevenson himself talked about his story in terms of good and evil, later critics tended to look at it more in terms of ego and id, with the hyper-rational Jekyll obsessed by his experiments and desire for control, whilst the bestial Hyde lives in the moment and is driven by passion. In this scenario, Jekyll (as Stevenson, too, implied) cannot be portrayed simply as the good half - he must bear some responsibility for what he has done. This approach might have given this film some room to manoeuvre amid its courtroom dynamics and moral posturing, but sadly it's ignored, with Jekyll presented as a helpless victim who makes big eyes at his pretty attorney in an attempt to be let off the moral hook. Despite this, he comes across as whiny and demanding, self-centered in a way that seems to be accepted as normal. He's such a dick that it's hard to feel much sympathy as he laments that the drugs made him do it.

Where one of the messages of Jekyll and Hyde perhaps ought to be "don't do drugs, kids," here the drugs become a necessity if you're to sit through the drivel on the screen.

Reviewed on: 09 Dec 2008
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Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde packshot
A modern update of Stevenson's classic story about a doctor and his murderous alter ego.
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Director: Paolo Barzman

Writer: Paul B Margolis, based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Starring: Dougray Scott, Krista Bridges, Tom Skerritt, Danette Mackay, Cas Anvar, Ellen David

Year: 2008

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Canada


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