Review of 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street'

sweeney_todd.jpg Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are back in this movie adaption of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd. I have never seen the musical but have always wanted to but held back after hearing of the graphic violence. So, seeing the movie, what did I think? Yep, it is graphic.

The movie begins with Benjamin Barker returning to London after being wrongly convicted and sent away for 12 years by Judge Turpin. Attracted to Barker's wife he sends Benjamin away. Returning as Sweeney Todd, Barker seeks his revenge on Turpin and to find his wife and young daughter. Turpin has adopted Barker's daughter and is keeping her effectively a prisoner in his home. Barker's former home above Mrs. Lovett's Fleet Street pie shop is soon home to Todd and his “barber shop”. After dispatching his first victim via his “beloved blades” a deal is struck where his victims turn into pies in the shop below baked by Lovett – Who quickly goes from serving the worst pies in town (a truly nauseating scene near the beginning involves a number of cockroaches and totally unsanitary baking conditions) to the most in demand filled, as they are, with the victims from the upstairs neighbour.

Depp gives a truly haunting performance as Todd in a typical Burton style (wild hair, over the top make-up, dark clothing, etc). Surprisingly, his voice for the musical numbers is actually quite good. Yes, the music. The first number comes as a bit of a shock (much like many other movies of musicals – I can think of Evita…) but gets to be very much an integral part of the film and story. I never quite buy into the “Never forget, never forgive” but that is really the theme of the story: Revenge. What does redeem the story is seeing how revenge consume Todd completely and the price he ultimately pays for it. Disturbing.

The effects are fantastic with the whole setting of the movie a slightly unrealistic London. The colours are muted with the bright red blood occasionally lighting up the scenes. It is quite some time into the story, by the way, before that happens but people looking for that sort of thing will not be disappointed…And when it does, it is very disturbing (as intended I am sure). It is not for nothing that this film is certificate 18 here in the UK and Restricted in the US. I will not give it away but the ending is perfect, really, not totally unexpected, and is what the entire film builds up to.

Burton and Depp have once again brought their magic to the big screen in what is sure to be a smash hit. I am not sure that it is their best work it is certainly controversial and thought provoking. A bit slow in the middle but ultimately an, enjoyable (?), experience.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2008-01-19

Directed by: Tim Burton

Studio: Dreamworks

Year: 2007

Length: 117 minutes

Genre: Musical

Other reviewed films by Tim Burton:

Other reviewed films by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson: