Sweeney Todd

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Director: Tim Burton; Release date: out now

The opening credits set up what's to come: giant, sinister lettering (if you can have such a thing) runs with thick red blood while orchestral music drums up fear, suspense and horror. If you didn't know it already, you can tell this is not a story with a happy ending.

The first scene introduces Burton's vision of Victorian London - dark, clammy, cramped and full of winding cobbled streets peopled with dubious characters, loomed over by St Paul's Cathedral. Practically black and white, this London is reminiscent of old horror films about Jack the Ripper. It reeks and smokes and is the root of all kinds of suggested nastiness.

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd hisses his first lines about this city with so much to answer for. Fifteen years before, as the innocent Benjamin Barker, he had been falsely accused and deported so that evil Judge Turpin could get his hands on his wife and child. Now he's back as Sweeney Todd with only vengeance on his mind. Looking like Edward Scissorhands' older brother, Depp does his usual (but always effective) brooding, introverted act. His singing is definitely passable - while he claims to have drawn his inspiration from Iggy Pop, he sounded more like the young David Bowie around the time of the Laughing Gnome.

Going back to his old barber shop he runs into Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham-Carter), famed for making the worst pies in London. She sings of a rival pie-maker who's doing much better trade by using cat meat - Mrs Lovett just hasn't managed to catch a live one yet. She has secretly harboured a love for Todd all those years and is desperate to tie him into a binding relationship. Her chance comes when Todd kills a rival barber who has threatened to expose him. She can see the perfect way to dispose of the body and boost her business...

They justify this in a duet in which they sing of the stench outside in the London streets - the stench of man devouring man. Why not make them do it literally as well as figuratively? This marks the beginning of a bloody spiral of revenge and casual murder.

This is an enjoyable film which looks and sounds amazing, though only Helena Bonham Carter brings any real warmth and depth to it. It's very funny in parts, but also very sad - a tale of a man whose dream was snatched away and a woman who destroys her own dream, in a London that's lost interest in the human soul.