FILM REVIEW: The Sweeney (15)

“You gotta act like a criminal to catch one,” growls Flying Squad hard man DI Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) as he apprehends a gang of armed robbers with old-fashioned brutality in Nick Love’s revamp of the classic 1970s TV series starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman.

In the same way that the daredevil antics of Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon put a fictional gloss on life on the streets for the LAPD, The Sweeney is completely divorced from the reality of modern policing in London.

Car chases careen through the shimmering glass and metal structures of Canary Wharf at dizzying speed to the pounding beat of Lorne Balfe’s score and a shoot-out in Trafalgar Square leaves ancient monuments riddled with bullet holes.

Almost every arrest culminates in Winstone growling “You’re nicked!” and when the men in the upper echelons of power dare to question Regan’s thuggish, heavy-handed tactics, he bares his teeth and snarls, “We still do the things you can only dream of”.

That told them.

Love’s script, co-written by John Hodge, follows Regan and sidekick George Carter (Ben Drew) as they hunt a gang of wily European thieves led by slippery Francis Allen (Paul Anderson).

Unfortunately, the team cannot find sufficient evidence to charge Allen and they are forced to let him go after hours of intense questioning.

“The ramifications of your actions are going to have serious repercussions,” the thief warns Regan with an icy stare.

Tensions within the department explode when Internal Affairs officer Ivan Lewis (Steve Mackintosh) embarks on a personal crusade to bring down Regan, who just happens to be bedding Lewis’s wife Nancy (Hayley Atwell).

Section chief Frank Haskins (Damian Lewis) protects his boys and girl in the Flying Squad as much as he can, but Internal Affairs clearly has a vendetta and will stop at nothing until the team is disbanded and Regan languishes behind bars.

“You’re extinct, you’re a dinosaur!” Lewis threatens his prey.

Filmed on location in London, The Sweeney embraces every cliche imaginable as Regan propels his department to the brink of self-destruction.

Car chases are well choreographed and Winstone plays the daddy of the department with tightly coiled intensity.

The romantic subplot with Atwell defies credulity - Winstone looks like he would rather chew off her face than kiss it - and their bedroom scene inspires unintentional snorts of derision.

By contrast, Drew (aka rapper Plan B) underplays his role but still gets involved in the bruising fisticuffs and a climactic showdown that pokes fun at the British love affair with caravan and trailer parks.

By Damon Smith


Released: September 12 (UK & Ireland), 112 mins