The Sweeney, Nationwide September 12, Cert: 15A, 3 stars out of 5
Cinema review by GARETH NAUGHTON
A REMAKE of the Seventies television show, this slick and modern take on the John Thaw classic is good fun even if its plot doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
Ray Winstone plays Detective Jack Regan who heads up The Sweeney — an elite squad within London’s Metropolitan police that gets results. Well they say they get results but if this film is anything to go by they are the Liverpool Football Club of policing — good in the past but these days a bit sloppy.
He and right hand man George (Ben Drew) lord it over the other cops both within their unit and in the police force in general because their well ’ard, innit. George has a grounded family life while Jack is busy having an affair with the wife of the superior office who has the power to close down the unit and is looking for an excuse to do it.
Jack doesn’t care much for that kind of sissy nonsense though so he just flaunts it in the guy’s face. So in the middle of investigating a murder/robbery things start to go a bit awry and corrective action must be taken.
The action sequences are brilliantly done – there’s one chase scene that works its way through Trafalgar Square which stands up to anything you will see from much bigger budget films in the next 12 months. That’s despite the fact that they never land a shot and the whole place is inexplicably empty.
In fact, the film looks great in general. It takes full advantage of the London skyline – you almost expect the Apprentice music to fire up at one point – and the blues and greys that dominate the colour palate give the film a slick, modern look not far off something you would see in a Michael Mann film.
The casting is near perfect. Winstone was practically born shouting “You slaaaaag” so playing a cockney detective who plays fast and loose with the rules was never going to be a stretch for him.
Putting him opposite Ben Drew, a relative novice who is better known for his music career as Plan B than his occasional forays into acting, was a bit of a risk but it pays off.
Drew’s natural naivety plays well against Winstone’s cynical hack and the chemistry between the two helps make up for the fact that the younger man is playing a slightly neglected character.
His backstory is only patchily sketched – he has a girlfriend, a son and an apartment to real copper could afford but that is about it.
All that said, the script probably needed a revisit before filming commenced. It doesn’t really ring true in this day and age that the London police force would include an elite force that is essentially given the freedom to do what it wants. They keep going on about how successful they are and sneering at other cops, particularly when Internal Affairs gets on their case. But we never actually see them be successful. They just wreak he gaffe and expect their superiors to turn a blind eye. Damian Lewis plays their boss.
Like the ill-conceived cliché that he is, he understands that their unorthodox methods get results but he just can’t hold the line for them much longer. There’s a newbie on the team that you just know is going to end up in serious pain at some point. It’s a bit too straightforward — some more sophistication wouldn’t have gone astray. As with all of Love’s films this is a boys-only affair with the women only getting cursory inclusion.
Nevertheless, for all its flaws and massive plot holes, The Sweeney is thoroughly entertaining if you don’t analyse it too much.
Read Gareth’s reviews of Hope Springs and ParaNorman in Downtown, free with Thursday’s Cork Evening Echo