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Sweeney, The (AF)


Stars: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Damian Lewis, Steven Mackintosh. Paul Anderson, Alan Ford, Steven Waddington, Kara Tointon

Director: Nick Love

Erase all memories of John Thaw’s Regan and Dennis Waterman’s Carter from the 1970s British TV cops-and-crooks series. While this action-heavy, intellect-thin big screen reboot shares its name and the basic crime-fighter storylining with the original, that’s where all resemblance vanishes.

What director and co-writer (with John Hodge) Nick Love has done is to deliver a load of brawls centred on foul-mouthed, bloody-minded hard-ass plainclothes Flying Squad detective Winstone who brutally lives up to his stated mission statement “Nobody takes liberties on my pitch!” and proves his point by consistently bending the rules which brings him into conflict with his superior officer Lewis and later with Mackintosh who is trying to clean up the Fklying Squad. Winstone fortuitously is sleeping with Mackintosh’s young wife Atwell, which at least gives a tad of depth to the cliché-ridden plot.

(Mind you, I found seeing overweight and none-too-young Winstone having his way with Atwell against a wall and later, bare buttocked, on a couch and distinctly queasy and definitely unnecessary experience).

Fortunately, action – which is the defining aspect of the film – kicks in early when the Sweeney bring down a bunch of criminals in an avalanche of well-choreographed and staged of bone-smashing, head-butting, fist-thumping, blood spurting, bullet-firing mayhem. Murder during a jewel robbery follows, after which there’s more easy-to-forget plot, along with a gun battle in London’s Trafalgar Square followed by Winstone’s arrest and imprisonment before he gets out and sorts out the Bad Guys.

Love makes it easy to savour the action rather than try to find anything of significance in the storyline, staging plentiful noisy action although, bizarrely, he stages the noisy car chase and gunfire climax in a curious empty estate. I can only assume the absence of a single onlooker was due either to everyone in the estate being away on holiday or, more likely perhaps, Love lacking the budget to hire extras.

But you have to admire the aerial shots of Canary Wharf skyscrapers which Love uses to establish film film's London setting. They look more American than the usual London locations. Maybe he was hoping to give his film a visual American-style flavour. Mind you, if that really is the case, I'd suggest subtitles might be an advantage in the USA.

As for the performances, they’re about what the screenplay deserves. Winstone delivers another, even more violent than usual, variation of his standard hardman East Ender act and, while delivering the classic line, “You’re nicked!” with more than enough feeling, spouts more than enough Channel 4-letter words to bring a blush to a drunken sailor’s cheek.

Drew (better known, perhaps, as musician Plan B) might do well to consider Plan C – learning to act). Everyone else does what they’re required to do although in the case of Lewis his wide boy accent felt as uncomfortable to me as it appeared to be to him.

One last comment. My 6/10 rating below is for the action. The rest barely deserves 3/10

Alan Frank

UK 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment One/Vertigi. Colour.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 12 Sep 2012