Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Cinema Review


Sweeney Todd sees Burton, Depp and Bonham-Carter return to the familiarly gruesome and macabre with a depiction of the fictional demon-barber, based on the Steven Sondheim musical. And part of the problem with the film is, in the end, unfortunately due to the musical.

Blood is the first issue to be covered here because there is lots of it and not only blood either; splitting skin, crunching bones and scrumptious cannibalism all get a good look in before Todd has had his way. On the whole it’s dealt with as tastefully as possible but it’s telling that the most gruesome death is Todd’s first kill which, sadly, rings of overkill. It’s a moment designed purely to shock rather than to facilitate our understanding of Todd’s malicious streak of revenge and it feels like a bit of a let down from a director who is normally a much better judge of such matters.

Behind the blood though eventually emerges London. ‘No Place like London’ is an oft-used refrain of a song which moves through the musical and the film alike and Burton’s pictorial representation of the song’s devotion is fitting and deliciously brilliant. The sets ooze scum leaking through the pores of what we see of the town and the characters which slide along are equally as gruesome. The London created is a place where you can believe Todd murders his customers and gets away with it and without it the film really would be lost.

Unfortunately, however, the refrain of ‘No Place…’ is not the only one featured in the films 116minute run-time. In total there are maybe six original songs while others are created around those templates. Eventually it feels like you’ve heard it all before, which, in the whole, is largely true. This would probably be forgivable but the quality of the songs is ultimately not as high as expected from a Broadway musical. ‘And its filled with people who are filled with s**t’ sings Todd at numerous points. Shakespeare it’s not.

Sweeney Todd is a Demon, in more ways than one. It’s another Burton creation which creates pleasure and enjoyment out of the grim and macabre but doesn’t quite harness the full potential that is there. In a film with this much blood the audience shouldn’t be left wanting more.


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