5.5.out of 10

Release Date: 12th September 2012

Director: Nick Love: (SAS – Red Notice / The Firm (2009) / Outlaw / The Business / The Football Factory / Goodbye Charlie Bright)

Cast: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Paul Anderson, Steven Mackintosh, Alan Ford, Nick Nevern, Ed Skrein, Allen Leech, Allan Corduner with Steven Waddington and Damian Lewis

Writer:  John Hodge & Nick Love


images-3I was too young to watch original The Sweeney on telly.  I was a kid when it was broadcast and it was probably too violent and on too late to have any chance of catching it.  I remember seeing the adverts for it though and somehow I know the theme tune.  So in a nutshell, I know a bit.  I know that it was about two cops who used to ignore the laws of their senior officers and that’s about it.  What else do we need to know in order to say “sold!”  The Sweeney is cops and robbers written large, it’s all entry level stuff which makes me wonder why no one has adapted this for the cinema before?  It’s been adapted by laddish director Nick Love with great aplomb.  He’s ripped a page out of Michael Mann‘s copy book and lenses London as a city of glass sky scrapers and winding dual carriage-ways. Gone are the cobbled streets of From Hell and Sherlock Holmes.  This London has all the latest kit.  New model Fords battle the latest Vauxhalls, cops communicate on Iphones and have Apple Macs on their desks in their futuristic Canary Wharf head quarters.  The only thing retrospective here is the dialogue.  It’s as if the makers are telling us that despite the world moving on and in constant shift, these characters will always remain the same.

Ray Winstone (TANK MALLING) is a national institution and its great to see him in a role the public will appreciate him in.  He eats up material like this and it fits him like a knuckle duster.  Think Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.  Ray Winstone‘s Regan is the same.  It’s nice to see him not mangling a foreign accent in a thankless supporting spot in a Hollywood flick – see Cold Mountain or Hugo.  Ben Drew (ILL MANORS) mumbles a bit but he is competent enough as Regan’s young partner, Carter.  He is a cool customer and his initial demeanour is amusing.  Then he gets some well worn character riffs to try on for size.  The plot has some drive though with twists and turns worthy of a head scratch.  The supporting cast are amply sketched. Regan’s married colleague (HAYLEY ATWELL – CAPTAIN AMERICA) provides a perfect way to get a look at Regan’s home and love life, or lack of.  He is the one that pleads with this girl to leave her loveless marriage and not the other way around. This gives colour to proceedings.  The big bad is played by Paul Anderson (SHERLOCK HOLMES 2) and although he is given scant screen time he is a memorable and evil presence.  He is an international safe cracker and bank robber who proves to be a master of misdirection for The Sweeney. The second big bad, which is an obvious shot to the heart of nanny state Britain, are the Internal Affairs department led by Steven Mackintosh (BLUE JUICE). They want Regan’s head almost as bad as the Anderson’s bank raiders.

Is it action packed?  Yes.  It’s jammed with car chases and a lengthy shoot out taking in Trafalgar Square and St James Park which could be on par with anything Hollywood serves up.  The Sweeney are understandably bad shots, as physical training and gun usage are probably not top of their daily priorities in these recession hit times.  It is funny to watch Ray Winstone dodge bullets by using lamp posts as cover.  He’s the largest target in the West End outside of Nelson’s Column so how he gets missed is a mixture of cinematic license and pure magic.  The car chases are very well shot. You’ll see hatchback cars do spectacular things your eyes won’t believe if you don’t live in Essex.

Enjoyable and standard, yet The Sweeney still the second best British action movie to get released in the last seven days.  It doesn’t hold a torch to Dredd, which is arguably as well known in the UK and nearly as old as The Sweeney.  Both films are predictable and both deliver on their promises.  Dredd knuckles down to justice dispension a little more cinematically though.  Tough competion, because any other month this would have been the best ‘big budget’ UK action flick around.

5.5 out of 10 – Always good to see Ray Winstone duffing people up.  Think of this as a Cockney tribute to Michael Mann‘s Heat and you’re there. But then fillet from Heat about seven story lines.  Nick Love’s most anonymous film but is it his best?  I’ll re-watch The Business and let you know.

Read Kristian Goodchild’s counter-review below!


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One thought on “THE SWEENEY

  1. THE SWEENEY – review by Kristian Goodchild

    There are a few things in life that no man should ever have to witness. Baby seals being clubbed, small children being run over, pensioners freezing to death…

    Amongst this list is the sight of an aging Ray Winstone enthusiastically fornicating with a woman half his age. So you can imagine my joy when I realised that this was to be a major constituent part of 70s cop-show remake ‘The Sweeney’.

    The Sweeney was; along with massive pubic hair growths, Bowie’s best era and the three day week; one of the best things to come out of the 70s. Every episode played out like a mini-film, the energy between Dennis Waterman and John Thaw as Regan and Carter, London’s dirtiest yet most effective cops, is still a noticeable influence on modern cop shows such as The Shield and The Wire.

    This 2012 re-imagining of the series places Regan and Carter firmly in the modern age with modern problems, but the feel is much the same. And the influence of shows such as The Shield can now be seen in The Sweeney, like a dirty cop mobius-strip.

    As Jack Regan, once John Thaw’s erstwhile dirty cop, Winstone has a role that he fits into like an old comfortable slipper. Regan is everything the Winstone clearly loves to play: A bit misogynistic, a bit dirty, sweary and rough around the edges, it should therefore come as no surprise that he was going to take the opportunity to get his cockney end away at some point.

    Regan is copping off with a colleague, the beautiful and plucky Nancy Lewis (Played superbly by Hayley Atwell) who also happens to be the wife of Internal Affairs investigator Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh). Lewis is looking into reports that The Sweeney is involved in violence, thievery and general dirty-cop naughtiness. Regan should therefore, logic dictates, steer clear of getting his leg over with Mrs. Lewis. But, as always seems to be the case with Winstone these days, he’s just a big softy at heart and has fallen for Nancy. And so it goes on, Regan gets his leg over, and then get into trouble with Mr. Lewis who is now even more incensed at Regan’s maverick ways.

    This is hardly revolutionary stuff, and no-one should be surprised that the plot didn’t win any plaudits. But it does give the main plotline- the sweeny’s efforts to take out a high profile bank-robber gang- a bit of colour.

    SPOILER ALERT:This continues for the first half of the film until then Nancy is killed in a daring attempt to stop the robbers mid-heist. It is at this point that I was faced with a complex mix of emotions. It is obviously never nice to see a key protagonist killed off early in a film, but when the death of said protagonist means you don’t have to see any more of Winstone going at it like a hungry jack russel, you can’t help but feel just a little relieved. SPOILER END.

    And that guilty feeling of relief is,, in all fairness, completely justified. With the death of his illegitimate lover Regan goes postal. Gone now is the cloying, forced sweetness of Winstone In Love, and in comes a bombastic ‘fuck the rules’ powerhouse of sweary savagery and violent rule-breaking vengeance.

    Cue a couple of explosions, some heist caper action and a few choice cameos from the always excellent Alan ‘Brick Top’ Ford and it all ties together rather nicely.

    Ben Drew (AKA Plan. is excellent as Regan’s partner George Carter, a cop from the wrong sides of the tracks, i.e. a reformed criminal. Drew follows his stellar performance in Harry Brown with more of the same gritty, brutal acting and deadpan delivery of cold one-liners.

    Homeland’s Damian Lewis is slightly less impressive as The Sweeney’s long-suffering boss, DCI Frank Haskings, but his lack of effort at times doesn’t detract from the pace of the film too much.

    The Sweeney is by no means a classic, but it does what you expect. It’s a pacey, thrill-laden action flick with some nice twists and some genuinely beautiful cinematography in amongst the clichés and underworld bile, a glossy, high-octane reboot that will appeal to fans of the original, classic 70s series as well as action or crime film fans.


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