Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Sweeney Review

The Sweeney
Director: Nick Love
The Sweeney was something my dad watched. I know little about it, except that it was good and violent, and starred John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. A reduced version of this review would probably say; it was good and violent and starred Ray Winstone and Ben Drew.

            The Sweeney, as you undoubtedly know, are The Flying Squad, a bunch of hard-ass coppers who go around bustin’ skulls and whatever else needs breaking to ‘get the criminal’. Ray Winstone’s Regan is a dinosaur (that gets results) much to annoyance of his pen pushing superiors. I can’t imagine John Thaw being that unpleasant, which is probably down to the Morse-factor, but Regan here is bordering on an Irvine Welsh character in terms of sheer, dark hearted repulsiveness. I certainly never felt myself rooting for him. Snatches of comedy based around his expanding wasteline punctuate a character that otherwise communicates in ‘slag’, ‘fuck’ and ‘slag’ again. When one of his team mates is shot down, he shuts up for a minute, before breakin’ someone’s face in the next scene.

            Which on its own would have been too much to carry the film. It’s actually much more about George Carter, Regan’s sidekick recruited from the mean London streets and given a new lease of life. Acting performances rarely make an impression on me, but here Ben Drew absolutely did. He covered the emotional bases that Winstone wasn’t able to (due to the writing, I mean) and is the heart of the film. Being the ignoramus of popular culture that I am, it was only when I left the cinema that I realised Ben Drew is Plan B. I’m sure my preconceptions would have got in the way if I had known. It may well be the part was made for him, but on this evidence, there’s a bright future.

            The story itself deals with a gang or armed robbers up to no good, and leading The Sweeney on a merry chase around the capital. It’s nothing too epic, which at times leads to a very TV film feel, purely in a plotting sense. The action sequences add a great filmic sense to it, with a shootout taking place in Trafalgar Square and an art gallery. These sequences reminded me of The Getaway, an old Playstation 2 game which was basically a London based GTA with plots elements taken from all manner of police shows, including the original Sweeney, I’m sure. There’s a pleasing Englishness to the film aswell; sweeping shots of the capital mix with car chases down country lanes, fights in snooker clubs and a shootout in a caravan site. In this sense it does stay close to its source material.

            The Sweeney is not an amazing film. Ben Drew’s performance aside, I don’t think there is too much that will stick with me. The industrial language and violence kept it pacey and engaging – to a point – but the general unlikeability of Regan did stop me short of really caring what happened. As a Friday night film, it’s great, simple entertainment, but nothing to get the braincells too excited.

Dean Freeman

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