SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
Having spent 15 years in prison unjustly, Fleet Street barber Benjamin Barker returns to London in the guise of Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and vows to avenge his cruel punishment as meted out by venal Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) and his slimy associate Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall). He wants revenge, too, for the terrible consequences of his jailing for his wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) and baby daughter. He re-opens his barber shop in Fleet Street, above the pie bakery run by the amorous Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) who makes diabolical meat pies. But Todd has to fend off his flamboyant rival, Signor Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) before he can get down to the bloody business of serial revenge ... and Mrs Lovett can fill her meat pies with tasty new meat.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Tim Burton's larger than death translation of the Broadway musical is a spectacular triumph of theatre fused with cinema. Opting to float the film on the performances, he has chosen a cast who can sing, but they can act even better. A brooding Johnny Depp introduces a dark and sombre tone as he returns to London from some hell hole (probably a pre-visioned Australia) into a Dickensian London recreated by the magic of digital cinema. Drained of colour like the film itself, Todd is a figure of tragic proportions, and the story's moral is unambiguous. The journey to that message, however, is filled with cinematic delight and musical pleasures.
Helena Bonham Carter, likewise with darkened eye sockets and fright hair, delivers a sweetly sardonic Nellie Lovett, whose love for Todd drives her to misspeak the truth about his beloved Lucy, with consequences she lives (and dies) to regret. Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall both engorge their characters with delicious ham, befitting a musical that is so over the top to start with that anyone attempting to play it with naturalism would look silly. (The fictional Todd character began appearing in writings in 19th century England.)
Young Edward Sanders is marvellous as Toby, the assistant to Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) before being taken in by Todd and Mrs Lovett. Jamie Campbell Bower is suitably intense as the sailor, Anthony, who falls for Jayne Wisener's Johanna, Todd's grown up daughter in the dangerous custody of nasty Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman); and Wisener is sweet, in a small role with not much to do except ... be sweet.
The film retains its desaturated look except for occasional bursts of colour - including red, of course - and the technical work is outstanding (apart from a couple of close ups that show the wig outline at Depp's sideburns) as is the music.
While the tragic ending doesn't quite have a huge emotional impact, the film makes the most of its many dramatic qualities and holds our attention throughout, with a haunting mood of doom.
Review by Louise Keller:
Imbued with the Tim Burton stamp of bizarreness, Stephen Sondheim's musical hits the screen with lashings of blood-red gore, a healthy dose of black humour and the iconic Johnny Depp, whose defining portrayal of the demon barber of Fleet Street is as memorable as his Jack Sparrow or Edward Scissorhands. Consumed by revenge, Depp's Sweeney Todd is intensity personified, with a furrowed brow, distracted gaze and hair reminiscent of an unmade bed, matching that of co-star Helena Bonham-Carter, his perfect foil as the pragmatic Mrs Lovett. Depp sings as he acts - convincingly, offering Sondheim's acclaimed songs a fresh new life.
They both look as though they need a good scrub, with dark eyes and an even darker lust for death. 'Spick and span, that's my motto,' mutters Mrs Lovett, as she swats a cockroach with her rolling pin. There's great charisma between Depp and Bonham-Carter, and I love the droll humour in the fantasy scenes when they picnic at the beach, recline in easy chairs and walk with parasols. After all 'we've got a nice respectable business,' she says. It's a wonderful cast and everyone sings disarmingly well - from Alan Rickman's paranoid Judge Turpin to Sacha Baron Cohen's scene stealing pseudo Italian barber Pirelli. Timothy Spall is hilarious as the judge's simpleton sidekick. Youngster Ed Sanders does a fine job delivering one of the highlight songs, Nothing's Gonna Harm You, and I also especially enjoyed Depp's delivery of Pretty Women, as he is about to offer the Judge the closest shave he'll ever get.
Burton's vision for Sweeney Todd comprises a limited colour palette, allowing bright red to be used strikingly throughout as the predominant colour. After all, slitting throats is a colourful affair, especially when there's a foot pedal at the base of the barber's chair to catapult bodies with ease to the pie-making basement. Dante Ferretti's marvellous production design of old London couples an air of authenticity with that of make-believe. Sweeney Todd is a connoisseur's delight - an ultra dark tale with little respite, told in true Burtonesque fashion.
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SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (MA)
CAST: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener, Edward Sanders,
PRODUCER: John Logan, Laurie MacDonald, Walter Parkes, Richard D. Zanuck
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
SCRIPT: John Logan (based on a musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, from an adaptation by Christopher Bond)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dariusz Wolski
EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon
MUSIC: Stephen Sondheim
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dante Ferretti
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2008