Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the sixth –and most daring - collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp.
Depp stars as Benjamin Parker, a barber who has been wrongly imprisoned over the last 15 years by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), a devious man who sought to get rid of Parker after falling in his love with his wife. Back from his banished exile, Parker takes on the alias of Sweeney Todd and vows revenge on Turbin, yet his unquenchable lust for blood culminates in the deaths of numerous men who have dared to sit in his barber’s chair. The corpses of his victims are used as food stock by Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who owns a meat pie shop underneath Todd’s residence.
Sweeney Todd… successfully takes on several genres – effective horror, dark comedy, off-beat musical, and twisted love story – to make a satisfyingly unique, blood curling tale of revenge which features cannibalism and copious amounts of blood letting, marking it as Burton’s most violent film thus far.
The extremely dark and gothic tones found in the films gloomy and gritty London setting is splendidly brought to life by production designer Dante Ferretti and set director Francesca Lo Schivao, and magnificently shot by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. Colleen Atwood provides great costumes, and the hair and makeup departments have also done a spectacular job.
Fans of traditional movie musicals who are not familiar with the Sweeny Todd… story will most likely balk at the films style of music, and the massive blood flow that accompanies it.
The film does not follow the typical structure found in many movie musicals: there are no song and dance numbers here. The music on hand is much more intimate and flows very well in sequence with dialogue driven scenes, rather than coming off as short interludes from the films plot (as some musicals are prone to do).
Delivering these songs are actors not known for their vocal ability, yet pulling off exceptional performances regardless. Johnny Depp displays a solid, punk like vocal which suits his characters anger and anguish to a tee, whilst Helena Bonham Carter shines with a flimsy yet captivating voice.
Whatever Depp and Carter lack in traditional musical styling, they make up with spirit and delivery. A musical number where Todd sings an ode to his blades, whilst Lovett sings her own sonnet of love to a preoccupied and uninterested Sweeney Todd, proves to be a bizarrely touching and tuneful ballad thanks to their performances.
Sacha Baron Cohen also shines with a hilarious turn as an Italian barber who catches Todd’s wrath.
The combination of Burton, Depp and Carter, combined with the usual Burton-esque visual style of frizzled locks, pale face, and drab clothing can bring on a sense of deja-vu which is hard to shake. So distinctive is Burton’s visual eye, that at times it felt like watching Edward Scissorhands Pt2: The Revenge.
Yet the overall quality of Burton’s direction, coupled with his actors’ energetic performances makes for an entertaining if not macabre viewing experience.