Sweeney Todd

Dir: Dave Moore
Star: Ray Winstone, Essie Davis, Tom Hardy, David Warner

Still not seen the Tim Burton version, so anyone expecting a comparison with this BBC drama is looking in the wrong place. On its own, however, it works nicely, with Winstone giving good depth to the demon barber of Fleet Street, who teams up with neighbouring pie-shop owner Mrs. Lovett (Davis) - at first, unwittingly - to dispose of the bodies. However, the increasing number of missing persons draw the attention of a local, blind magistrate (Warner) and also a police-officer (Hardy), whose life Todd once saved, in his other role, that of a surgeon. [That's the origin of the red and white striped pole outside barbers, incidentally] Indeed, Todd is also the local, under-the-counter abortionist, and that's what brings Mrs. Lovett into his debt - he also takes care of her abusive husband, when he needs Todd's surgical skills. Todd's father, here also responsible for his son's incarceration in Newgate for twenty years, also shows up.

Frankly, with all that going on, it's little wonder he denies the existence of God and turns to slaughter as his chief vice, simply because he can. Winstone gives him something of a sympathetic edge, but there isn't much of a character arc there. Mrs. Lovett goes through much more change, as a result of what happens to her: a particularly interesting dynamic is that Sweeney is unable to consumate his relationship with her, and instead, a number of his victims are those who do so. This version doesn't stint on the blood-letting, even if it's more concerned with the psychological carnage that's unleashed on the participants: it's somewhat bleak and unsettling, and is somewhat sluggishly-paced: typical worthy BBC drama though. It might have been amusing if they'd got Ben Kingsley to play Sweeney's dad - if you saw Sexy Beast, you'll know why. However, turns out Kingsley appeared in his own version of the story, a decade or so before; and, ironically, Winstone recently signed on for The Sweeney, where he'll play Jack Regan. Odd how these things work out.

[June 2008]

Run! It's the Sweeney!
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