Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) (R)




















"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is possibly the darkest musical. When the opening credits pass by we follow the paths of drops of blood as they fall from the sky and then cascade down into buildings and through vents, worming their ways into the woodwork of homes. You'd be naive to think that this movie was going to be anything less than intense.
Benjamin Barker had the misfortune of being married to a pretty lady. He was a nice barber and he had a nice wife and a nice family—picture perfect, if you will. But there is another player here, a certain Judge Turpin who coveted Barker's wife and so had Benjamin sent off to prison for the rest of his life. The judge then harassed the wife and eventually she took arsenic to end the madness, that's when Barker returns, somehow escaping prison. It's been a while since his wife has died and now he's back in London, the city of filth according to him. When he hears news about the wife and that now his daughter is being essentially held prisoner by the judge, he demands vengeance. Taking the name Sweeney Todd he devotes his life to finding the judge and killing him.
Tim Burton directs this piece and it could just be his masterpiece. It's as dark as he's gone minus the goofiness that the director can sometimes throw in. Capturing the spirit of the stage musical, Burton deftly crafts a sinister piece that is chilling in its execution.
From the moment that the Warner Brothers insignia floats across the screen and a huge organ swells and blares out a song in a mesmerizing minor chord, "Sweeney Todd" grabs you by the throat. It's vicious and visceral and unrelenting.
To take down the judge, Todd has to establish himself once again as a prominent and well-repected barber. He sets up shop above Mrs. Lovett's meat pie shop and there he waits for the judge like a spider in the web.
Todd is played by Johnny Depp whose over the top performances haven't always delivered. His star name and his incessant repetition of his character in "Pirates of the Caribbean" is demeaning to him and to the audience and is a little annoying, to be frank. Take this new movie "The Lone Ranger" for instance. It's coming out soon this year and it's bound to be at least a mediocre box office success because of Depp's name attached to it.  He's not even playing the lone ranger, he's Tonto, the sidekick. Yet Depp gets top billing and is seen in the trailer looking and sounding exactly like Jack Sparrow. Thankfully, "Sweeney Todd" is a movie in which Depp delivers with precision and excellence. I had underestimated the actor, but he still has a large amount of greatness in him.
The obsession and madness of Todd is so easily portrayed on Depp's face, it becomes a canvas for the character to appear on.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Mrs. Lovett and is vastly good in her role. It's a little tried and true but she is always a delight to see.
Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, and Jamie Campbell Bower finish off the rest of the delightfully dark cast.
Each actor is painted white with black eyes and sunken faces. London is not an appealing place in "Sweeney Todd".
Be forewarned though, the third act is wrapped up, slathered in glorious amounts of fake blood. It's everywhere. This musical has a bite.
"Sweeney Todd" is magnificent, a work of dark art that will please a select group of people; and thankfully, I was one of the those.


Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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