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Director: Nick Love
Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Damien Lewis
Plot: The Sweeney, a department of the Metropolitan Police specialising in tackling armed robbery and violent crime in London, are called into action when a bank heist takes place in the heart of the city. But the mastermind behind the crime is someone they’ve encountered before…
The film is based on the original TV show starring John Thaw (Regan) and Dennis Waterman (Carter). The original series then had two spin offs – Sweeney! And Sweeney 2. So two films have been made and now, over thirty years later, a modern day episode has been set with less cheesy music and more swearing and violence. Make that A LOT more swearing and violence. Director Nick Love delves into familiar surroundings, having helmed projects such as The Firm and The Football Factory – both centring on violence in football. The violence in this case is on the streets of the London gangster scene which The Sweeney set out to crush. Literally.
Ray Winstone (Scum, The Departed) is perfectly cast as tough guy Jack Regan. It is fair to say that Ray has been typecast as a bit of a geezer – his Bet365 adverts, for instance, suggest this – but giving credit where it is due, Winstone does this well in The Sweeney. There is no real depth to his character, other than that he has a gruff voice, chain smokes and enjoys beating people up at the weekend. In addition to his hard-hitting activities of stopping London’s gangsters, Jack is having an affair with married Sweeney member Nancy. Seeing 55-year-old Winstone and 30-year-old Hayley Atwell “at it” is somewhat uncomfortable, and their relationship doesn’t really have any effect on the storyline. It makes it harder for us to sympathise towards this relationship later on when the story takes a dramatic turn. Ben Drew a.k.a. rapper Plan B also delivers well as Jack’s partner Carter. A former criminal, Carter is in prime position to succeed Jack as Head of The Sweeney. Even when the “powers that be” are against Jack and ban him from the police, Carter stays loyal to his friend and gets Jack back on the case and into the Met’s good books. A surprise piece of casting may come in the form of Damian Lewis. Known for period drama The Forsyte Saga, World War II series Band of Brothers and as a loving father in Will (more loving than my review anyway…), Lewis doesn’t really have any presence as the Guv, the man to keep the Sweeney in check. However, it’s still a decent performance and the dominance of Winstone over him works well enough.
What is a violent cop film without plenty of action. And boy, there’s plenty of it. Action is only interesting if we know exactly what is going on and if it keeps us involved and on edge. The shootout in the middle of the film goes on for so long that it just becomes boring and uninteresting. Nick Love makes up for this, however, with a superbly tense scene in a car park where Winstone and Atwell are on the guard and unaware of which car their enemies are hiding in. Probably the best scene in the whole film. Sadly, a car chase scene occurs later on and is just too fast paced for the audience to keep up with the action. I had a similar experience in the chase scene of The Bourne Legacy where it was just too confusing and lacking in tension to make me care about what was going on.
There is no robust plot line to this film. Regan and Carter are after a previously convicted criminal. That is it. We don’t really learn much about our characters other than that they are tough and hate the police officials who sit behind a desk. The film promotes the word “slag” or “schlag” as it is also phrased. Every character smokes, again emphasising the gangster world of the film, so it is a shame this cliché came up. I’ve never personally understood why “tough guys” smoke. It’s a pretty standard cop film. The second half is definitely an improvement from the first. After the big shootout half way through, it began to flow better and became much more watchable.
Overall, the film serves its purpose. It’s got action, car chases, Ray Winstone’s voice. What more could you want? There’s no focused plotline and it is very predictable and clichéd at times, but the film’s acting is solid and it deserves some good press. Good one Guv’.
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