Film review: The SweeneyBy Kim Francis
September 19, 2012
Even if you weren’t around when The Sweeney was first on television screens, the 1970s’ police drama series is such a major part of British television history that you can’t fail to be aware of it.
John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman as his partner Detective Sergeant George Carter... it’s classic TV, but television that’s perhaps best left in the minds of those who remember it. Watching it now, it looks (unavoidably) dated.
A big screen update from Nick Love, the director behind football violence flick The Football Factory, who specialises in showcasing London-centric violence and morally-skewed Cockney geezers, is the perfect choice for a 2012 remake of the outdated series about Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad – an organisation specialising in investigating armed robbery and violent crime – and the corruption within it.
Love does the right thing, choosing to keep the story simple and easy-to-follow to allow the characters, action and locations to do the talking.
And doesn’t Regan (Ray Winstone) talk. He’s also old school, he’s out of shape and he refuses to play by the rules.
Suspicions of corruption mean he is investigated by Internal Affairs, a department headed up by Ivan Lewis (Stephen Macintosh), who happens to be the husband of Regan’s colleague (Hayley Atwell), with whom Regan is having an affair.
The shaky relationship between Regan and Lewis is further strained by this, and Regan’s ego, temperament and contrary nature mean he goes as far against the book as it’s possible to go in his pursuit of the perpetrators of a robbery and fatal shooting he’s investigating. Damien Lewis also stars as Regan’s superior Frank Haskins and the two are frequently at odds.
Regan’s methods drive a wedge between him and partner George Carter (Ben Drew, aka rapper Plan B) – but can they come together to get to the bottom of this less-than straightforward case?
A young and subdued Ben Drew as Carter is the perfect foil for Winstone’s Cockney copper.
A revelation in the role, Drew admitted recently to feeling out of his depth, but more accurately, he’s at the top of his game, bringing a sense of realism in his performance at the same time as modernising the character and giving the younger sidekick depth.
The real star of The Sweeney, though, is the action. There are some really juicy shoot-outs with bullets spraying everywhere – it’s been a long time since you saw retro gun action like this.
Capped by a stunning chase sequence through Trafalgar Square, Nick Love proves he can do thrills and spills on a budget, at the same time as making great use of the London locations.The Sweeney certainly isn’t highbrow, but it sure is a blast.