Movie Review: Sweeny Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Who knew slitting someone’s throat could be this musical? Warning: this film is not for the faint of heart. This screen adapted version of the hit Broadway musical Sweeny Todd, directed by Tim Burton, is leaving audiences not knowing whether to applaud or adopt a new found phobia of barbershops.

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) is a barber who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to a life of hard labor in Australia by the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who desires Barker’s wife. He then returns to London 15 years later and decides to adopt the persona of Sweeny Todd and says goodbye to his young friend Anthony. He visits his old flat, which is now above Nellie Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) pie shop on Fleet Street. She informs him that Turpin raped his wife and consequently, she poisoned herself. Turpin also took Barker’s daughter Johanna in as his ward. After hearing this news, he vows revenge and decides to reopen his barbershop in the upstairs flat.

Anthony decides that London should be his new home as well and wanders the streets of London, where he sees Johanna and falls in love with her. Because of his newfound love for Johanna, Turpin confronts him and warns him to stay away from her with a beating from Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall).

Todd and Mrs. Lovett decide to take a stroll to the market to recruit customers for the new barber shop. During their visit, they encounter Italian street barber Adolfo Pirelli (Sasha Baron Cohen) and his young assistant Toby Ragg (Ed Sanders). Through a shaving duel, Bamford becomes Todd’s first customer and informs him that he shall spread the word of his great skill. Todd promises him ‘the closest shave you will ever know.’

When they return to the barbershop, Pirelli informs Todd that he is actually his former assistant Daniel Higgings and tries to blackmail him. Todd then murders him and shoves him in a truck where he stays while Mrs. Lovett feeds Toby one of her pies. She then takes Toby under her wing and employs him at her pie shop.

At this point Todd and Lovett break out in a song revealing their plan to murder customers and dump them into the bake house to use as pie filling. This normally grotesque turn of events is given a delightful spin with a song.

The fury of events that follow result in Judge Turpin attempting to marry Johanna, and when she refuses she is sent to an insane asylum. Anthony plans to marry Johanna and help her escape from the Asylum. Todd tricks Anthony with a letter to give to Turpin, which actually reveals his plan to fee her.

Toby, revealing that he has a great mistrust for Todd, says that something fishy is going on. Mrs. Lovett comforts him and lures him into the bake house, locking him inside. Toby then finds a toe inside one of his pies, confirming his suspicions. While this is taking place, Bamford visits the shop to investigate strange smells that have been reported coming from the bake house. Todd suggests that he come up for a quick shave and slits his throat. Toby flees to the sewers to avoid the crazy pair.

Anthony and Johanna return to Todd’s barber shop and Johanna disguised in men’s clothing hides in a trunk. Todd returns to the barber shop where a beggar woman, who has been hanging around the shop, and seems to recognize him. He hears Turpin coming and slits her throat and drops her down the chute. Turpin enters and Todd’s time has finally come for revenge. He reveals his true identity and stabs him and slits his throat.

Johanna then emerges and Todd, not recognizing her attempts to kill her but is abruptly halted by Mrs. Lovett’s shriek. He hurries to the bake house finding Turpin still alive and clinging onto her dress. She opens the oven door to dispose of the body and Todd notices something about the beggar woman he missed. It is his wife Lucy, whom he thought to be dead. Lovett reveals that Lucy survived the suicide attempt, but due to the poison became crazy and she wanted to spare his feelings because she loves him. Hearing this Sweeny pretends not to be angry but dances around the room with Lovett and throws her into the over and locks the door. Toby emerges from the sewer and slits Todd’s throat – an ironic twist to end the gruesome tale.

Depp captivates the audience with his dark, tortured songs and rants about revenge; while Carter gives a stellar and convincingly dark performance as Mrs. Lovett.

Sweeny Todd received three Academy Award nominations for best actor in a leading role (Depp), best achievement in art direction and best achievement in costume design.

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