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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

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The ViewAuckland Review

Review byMatthew Turner23/01/2008

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Beautifully directed, superbly designed and suitably bloodthirsty, this is a thoroughly enjoyable musical with terrific performances from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

What's it all about?
Based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd stars Johnny Depp as Benjamin Barker, who returns to 19th century London after 15 years in exile, seeking revenge against Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who imprisoned Barker and stole his wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) and infant daughter. Renaming himself Sweeney Todd, Barker sets himself up as a barber, above a grotty pie shop run by Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who has always secretly loved him.

When Todd kills a blackmailing rival barber (Sacha Baron Cohen), he finds himself with a body on his hands, until Mrs Lovett hits upon an innovative solution that soon sees her pie shop transformed into a roaring success. Meanwhile, as Todd plots his revenge against Turpin, a young sailor (Jamie Campbell Bower) falls in love with Todd's imprisoned daughter (Jayne Wisener) and vows to rescue her.

The Good
In his sixth collaboration with Burton, Depp delivers a stunning performance that combines horror, black comedy and genuine heartache, like an evil version of Edward Scissorhands - he deservedly received an Oscar nomination earlier this week. He may not be a great singer, but his singing voice is both distinctive and perfectly suited to the part.

Helena Bonham Carter is terrific as Mrs Lovett and her deadpan asides provide several good laughs. There's also strong support from Sacha Baron Cohen (wonderful as Pirelli), Timothy Spall (Spallness Factor: medium) as the Judge's henchman Beadle Bamford and a perfectly cast Alan Rickman, though Campbell Bower and Wisener are given little to do except belt out the musical numbers.

The Great
Sondheim's songs are excellent and Burton's direction is note-perfect (the beach-based fantasy sequence is utterly delightful), especially combined with Dante Ferretti's jaw-dropping set design. Similarly, as indicated by the blood-spattered posters, the film is much gorier than you might be expecting.

Worth seeing?
Put simply, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one of the best films of the year and quite possibly Burton's masterpiece. Highly recommended.

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
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Content updated: 20/07/2019 21:06

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