Review: The Sweeney
PLOT:The Flying Squad is an old school crime fighting unit of the London police, who do everything in their power to enforce the law. Led by legendary detective Jack Regan and his loyal partner Carter, they set their sights on a crew of merciless thieves looking to take down a massive private bank.
REVIEW: THE SWEENEY packs just about every hard-boiled cop movie cliche it can into its slick, bulky body; a feature version of the popular 1970s British crime show, it's an adequate Cockney version of a story told many times before and after the series aired, with a formidable leading man who crushes everything in his way. Appreciators of tales of brash cops-and-robbers will find more than a few things to like here, but it's never anything more than a loud diversion.
THE SWEENEY focuses on the rough-and-tumble "Flying Squad," a division of London's Metropolitan Police Service that does whatever it takes to bring down their targets, often playing fast and loose with the rules. Their leader is Jack Regan, and all you really know about him is that he's played by Ray Winstone in full "you wouldn't dream of f*cking with me because I'm Ray Winstone" mode - which is effective, of course, because Winstone has maybe the most frightening glower in cinema. Regan is a hard-living, hard-working badass; he barely answers to his patient superior Haskins ("Homeland's" Damian Lewis in a thankless role) but he's loyal to a fault to his team, which consists of Carter (Ben Drew, aka British rapper "Plan B"), who is like a younger, somewhat more level-headed version of Regan, and Nancy (Hayley Atwell), with whom Regan is having an affair. Nancy's husband Ivan (Steven Mackintosh) works for Internal Affairs and is constantly breathing down the neck of the Flying Squad, just one of the many cliches trotted out by the movie. (Yes, there's even a scene where Regan has to turn over his gun and shield.)
The plot, such at it is, involves the Squad investigating a jewelry heist that ends in a brutal, seemingly senseless execution of an innocent woman. The robbery's MO suggests a former thief named Francis Allen (Paul Anderson) is responsible, but a subsequent arrest of the man goes nowhere after his alibi check out. Of course, Regan is a pitbull after a scent, so he pursues the case with the same intensity that he does Nancy, who he begs to leave her stuffy husband and move in with him. The man may be a hulking tower of scowling beef, but he's got a soft spot for his lady love.
THE SWEENEY doesn't much care about the case at hand, and unfortunately the villains are quite colorless. Other than a handful of sequences, we barely get to know them, and their true motives fall way short of intriguing. It's all about Winstone, his brutish demeanor dominating the proceedings, his rampage across London to collar his targets leaving plenty of property and bodily damage. The man is called a dinosaur at one point, although "bull in a china shop" might be a more accurate description. No, it's not a pretty sight when he and Hayley Atwell go at it, but when he's choking the hell out of a someone who crosses him, there's no arguing with the fact that he's every bit the convincing hard case. His banter with Drew is passable, I suppose, though these two will never go down as one of the most memorable buddy-cop teams in movie history.
Director Nick Love (FOOTBALL FACTORY) capably engineers a few rousing chase sequences and shoot outs, one of which is impressively staged in Trafalgar Square (even if it's quite obviously a rip-off of the famous shoot-out in Michael Mann's HEAT). The script he's written with John Hodge (TRAINSPOTTING) is a pretty straight-forward, if unnecessarily overlong, with typical dialogue sounding something like, "I catch criminals on the street, not from behind a desk", or, "You have to think like a criminal to catch a criminal." Deep thoughts that sum up THE SWEENEY quite well.
One strike against THE SWEENEY, at least from an American's perspective, is the frequent impenetrability of the language. The Cockney accents are so thick that subtitles would not be out of order. That said, the film follows the blueprint of the genre so faithfull that you could watch it with the sound off and not miss a beat.
|Extra Tidbit:||THE SWEENEY opens on March 1st.|