How could John Schlesinger, director of fine and varied films ranging from SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY (1971) to COLD COMFORT FARM (1995), have made this sloppily conceived bit of Grand Guignol tripe? In the dog-eat-dog world of mid-19th-century London, barber Sweeney Todd (Ben Kinglsey) cuts the throats of suitably wealthy customers, robs them and delivers their corpses to enterprising meat-pie baker Mrs. Lovett (Joanna Lumley). Todd fought for his country in Africa, where desperation drove him to eat human flesh; the experience left him with disdain for good citizenship and a craving for profits. Unfortunately, one of Todd's shaving "accidents" befell merchant Mr. Mannheim (Peter Woodthorpe), who owed $50,000 worth of gems to the American company represented by agent Carlisle (Campbell Scott). Unable to get the British constabulary to investigate, Carlisle snoops into the lives of local residents like Todd's ward Alice (Selina Boyack) and child laborer Charlie (Sean O'Flannagan). As Carlisle links Mannheim's disappearance with his visits to Todd for tonsorial services, Carlisle endangers helpful allies. Can the noble Carlisle match wits with seasoned killers like Todd and Lovett or will he wind up at the wrong end of Todd's strop? Schlesinger doesn't have the temperament to have fun with such over-the-top material, so he resorts to shots of nibbling rats and rotting carcasses. The equation of Todd's cannibalism and bloody minded capitalism is shakily, and the film succeeds neither as a satirical depiction of market supply-and-demand curve or as barnstorming melodrama. All that's left is a dismal nosedive into horror cliches.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: NR
- Review: How could John Schlesinger, director of fine and varied films ranging from SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY (1971) to COLD COMFORT FARM (1995), have made this sloppily conceived bit of Grand Guignol tripe? In the dog-eat-dog world of mid-19th-century London, barber… (more)