Once upon a time, back in the 70s, THE SWEENEY was an incredibly popular TV show over in the UK. Starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, the show about members of the Flying Squad, a branch of the Metropolitan Police that handled armed robbery and violent crime in London ran for four seasons and 53 episodes on ITV, also spawning two theatrically released movie spin-offs. 34 years after the show’s original run, THE SWEENEY is back, this time solely in feature film form, starring Ray Winstone, Ben Drew and Hayley Atwell as a part of that police division. In this launch of a new potential franchise, the crew is trying to solve a murder-robbery using a set of tactics that your average law enforcement doesn’t have at their disposal, namely no rules or regulations whatsoever. While the individual parts are pretty solid, namely those three leads, THE SWEENEY is pretty much your run-of-the-mill cop drama. It’s rather predictable as it follows the typical formula of the genre, but with Winstone, Drew and Atwell being enjoyable enough to watch in their role, you don’t quite mind going along with the paint-by-numbers story.
Winstone stars as Detective Inspector Jack Regan, who leads the Flying Squad. He’s not one for politics or restrictions when it comes to his police work, not answering questions about his methods. If he needs to use a baseball bat, in order to get information out of his perp. You can be damn sure he’s going to do it. He’s old-school in his methods, knowing that hanging a guy off a roof generates better results than following protocols and procedures. His right-hand man is Detective Constable George Carter, his loyal partner who seems to have his back no matter what, even if straying from this association might get him a promotion and better standing with the department along the way. He shares Regan’s attitude that the ends justifies the means, which is why they compliment each other so well. And then there’s Detective Constable Nancy Lewis, played by Atwell, who rounds out the key core of the Squad. In addition to her stellar police work, Lewis also happens to be involved in an affair with Regan, which complicates matters a bit as she’s presently married to the by-the-book Detective Chief Inspector in Internal Affairs who likes to keep a watchful eye on how the Squad goes about their business. Therefore, you know they’ll be butting heads later on, and... oh, while we’re at it when it comes to these cop movie cliches, you might as well prepare yourself for the moment Regan is going to be suspended, having to turn in his gun and badge, for taking things too far. I told you it was formulaic.
After a jewelry store robbery leaves one seemingly innocent woman dead, Regan and his gang are on the hunt, trying to track down who is responsible. When they find a match consistent with how this job was pulled off, they turn up the heat in order to land their confession. However, it’s not going to be as easy as originally thought. Their suspect has a pretty solid alibi, so is it possible they’ve got the wrong guy? They’re going to have to move quickly in order to prove they’ve nailed this investigation, or else there’s going to be a pile of shit Regan is going to find himself in, especially with IA breathing down his neck, looking for even the slightest slip-up they might be able to get him on.
There’s nothing spectacular about THE SWEENEY. Writer-director Nick Love has managed to follow the pattern to a tee here in order to bring about your average cop flick. The action beats seem to be spaced out and paced properly, in order to prevent the movie from dipping into any lulls, particularly a sprawling gunfight that makes up one of the film’s big set pieces. His characters are likeable and interesting enough that they maintain your interest in seeing them on the job. And let’s face it... Winstone is an old favorite that the second he walks on the screen, you’ve got a bit of a smile on your face just watching him in action. And hey... even when he’s being a prick, it’s to his superiors who are trying to cramp his style, so who cares?
Drew is the real stand-out in THE SWEENEY though, and, if this becomes an expanded series of films, I’d like to see him take a bigger role than just the sidekick, as he has a presence about him when he’s on-screen that puts him somewhere in the neighborhood of cool asskicker. Atwell is a pleasure to watch for bringing a bit of womanly charm, albeit of a female more than capable of holding her own, into the mix, stopping the film from getting a bit too testosterone-heavy.
THE SWEENEY isn’t a bad start if the plan is to do something bigger with the property, and I’d actually be interested in seeing where they went next now that all the characters have been established for audiences both old and new. The pieces are in place to take the next step, and I’d hope they might move beyond doing something generic again. THE SWEENEY is a decent watch, if you’ve got some extra time on your hands with nothing else to do, but just know that you’re going to be dipping into awfully familiar territory the second those opening credits start rolling.
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