"Song, Dance, Blood, Revenge, and Disgust"
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, based on the Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim, is the story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a. Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp), who was wrongfully imprisoned by the villainous Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). Now, Sweeney seeks revenge on all of London as he claims the life of anyone unlucky enough to sit in his barber’s chair.
The story opens as Barker arrives back in London after 15 years of his false imprisonment in Australia. He sails home with a young man, Anthony (Bower), who we find out rescued Barker from the sea. Barker has assumed a new identity, Sweeney Todd, but holds on to his former profession as a barber.
Bent on carrying out revenge against Judge Turpin, Sweeney quickly sets out to find him and learn the fate of his wife and daughter. After meeting Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a meat-pie shop on Fleet Street, he learns that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge and that Turpin took Sweeney’s daughter as his own.
Sweeney sets up a new barbershop in the upstairs of Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. With word spreading of his skills as a barber, he waits for his chance to have Judge Turpin visit as a customer. In a serenade to one of his silver razor blades, Sweeney waits to rejoice in slitting the judge’s throat and watching him die.
However, as Turpin eludes Sweeney’s plan, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett devise a plan to re-open her pie shop. Sweeney kills any unsuspecting person who enters his shop, and she cuts them into pieces, grinds them up, and makes the human meat into meat pies. The pies become a hit all over London. The store is packed with customers every night, but no one knows the real ingredients of the pies they are eating.
Without presenting any spoilers, the rest of the film follows Sweeney’s attempts at exacting revenge and the horrifying reality of the success of the meat-pie restaurant. Will he get his revenge? What will become of his daughter, Johanna? Will Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett find the “happily ever after” that she wants?
This movie is not for the weak of heart, the weak stomached, or anyone with a moral conscience. The violence, blood, and cold-hearted way in which Sweeney carries out each murder are vile, disgusting and repulsive. Thus, the movie’s darkness will leave discerning, vulnerable viewers with a moral and spiritual darkness clouding their spirit.
Johnny Depp has always liked the dark, unusual roles he has performed in his career, but even so, it is surprising that he was willing to be a part of this. It is not surprising that Tim Burton brings his sick taste back to the screen in this genre, but he, too, has gone too far this time. That is not to say that the quality of the movie is not strong. The atmosphere of the sets recalls the dark days of Europe very effectively. The costume design is an especially strong aspect of this movie as well, along with the strength of the acting that makes every role come to life. Depp even successfully adds dramatic singing to his already impressive resume of acting skills.
All of this is overshadowed by the sickness of the story, however. Sweeney sings of finding salvation through slitting the throats of his victims. The judge gets Sweeney’s wife drunk in order to rape her, then turns his affections toward her daughter when she becomes a teenager. Mrs. Lovett allows her helper, the boy Toby, to get drunk in her presence just to help him sleep. She also allows him in his ignorance to eat the pies made from human flesh. It is hard to keep track of how many senseless murders are depicted, with throat after throat being torn open with Sweeney’s blade, and the gallons of blood Burton decided to use in order to illustrate this. Then, to see the bodies lying in pieces in a vat and being fed through a meat grinder, as well as seeing the restaurant full of innocent patrons eating human pies night after night, will turn the stomach of any sensitive viewer.
The word “disgust” sums up SWEENEY TODD as well as anything.
(PaPa, AbAb, FR, H, Co, B, C, L, VVV, S, AA, MM) Strong pagan worldview where revenge is glorified, murder is justified, and cannibalism is made to be funny, with anti-biblical content as main character refers to attaining “salvation” through murder and releasing others of their sins by killing them, one quick false religious element as character mentions that “the Fates have favored” the main character, some elements of humanist and neo-Marxist social commentary on the roles of the upper and lower classes in society, light moral tone as character reaps what he sows, and some references to God with phrases such as “the good Lord,” and “God bless you” as well as a Christian wedding is seen and some references to prayer and Catholicism; six “light” obscenities and no profanity as well as derogatory term used for urination; very graphic violence includes multiple scenes of murder, with extreme amounts of blood, all involving throats being slit and also a man having his head bashed in, bodies falling down a chute and necks breaking on the ground below, bodies cut into pieces, body parts put in meat grinder, cannibalism, and implied rape; implied rape, and dirty old man longs to marry his 16-year-old ward; no nudity but some female cleavage shown in corsets and man has stuffed his pants to appear well-endowed; several scenes of alcohol use, one involving a youth who drinks gin until he passes out; no smoking or drug use; and, miscellaneous immorality includes lying, murder, attempted blackmail, theft, bad role model toward young boy (including the drinking), and corrupt politicians.
SWEENEY TODD is the story of a London resident, Benjamin Barker, wrongfully imprisoned by the villainous Judge Turpin in order to steal Barker’s wife and daughter. The story opens as Barker returns to London after 15 years of imprisonment in Australia. Barker has a new identity, Sweeney Todd, but continues his former profession as a barber. Bent on revenge against Judge Turpin, Sweeney sets out to find the judge and discover the fate of his wife and daughter. After meeting Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a pie-making shop, he learns his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge and that Turpin took Sweeney’s daughter as his own. Sweeney sets up a new barbershop above the pie shop. Sweeney starts killing his customers, and Mrs. Lovett grinds them up into her pies, while Sweeney waits for his chance to kill Judge Turpin.
This movie is not for the weak of heart, the weak stomached, or anyone with a moral conscience. The violence, blood, and cold-hearted way in which Sweeney carries out each murder are vile and disgusting. The movie’s darkness will cloud the spirit of discerning or vulnerable viewers.