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The Sweeney - Review

The Sweeney

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

BACK in the 70s The Sweeney was renowned for its gritty violence and tough talking coppers led by John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. It was widely considered to be a game changer on British TV and continues to enjoy iconic status.

Nick Love’s big screen update deserves credit for being one of the best British action films outside of the Bond franchise in recent years but is still a long way from being a classic.

Rather, for the most part, it’s exactly the kind of film you might have predicted from a director whose past credits include The Firm, Outlaw and The Business.

It’s loud, laddish, testosterone heavy and packed with the kind of thuggish inclinations that have become something of a Love trademark. Unlike his past movies, however, it is a bit of a guilty pleasure, particularly when flexing its action muscles.

Ray Winstone and Ben Drew play, respectively, Jack Regan and George Carter of The Sweeney, whose job it is to take down London’s most violent criminals.

But with internal affairs breathing down their neck because of their heavy-handed approach, the last thing the squad needs is the return of one of Britain’s most wanted hard-men (Paul Anderson’s Allen) and a robbery and execution that may be the first of many.

To compound Regan’s woes, the internal affairs chief on his trail (Steven Mackintosh) just happens to be the husband of the colleague (Hayley Atwell) he is sleeping with.

Love’s film displays plenty of ambition and, to be fair, does a good job of pulling most of it off. The action, in particular, thrills and is favourably comparable (often blatantly so) to the work of Michael Mann. A running gun battle through the streets of London, including Trafalgar Square, is particularly impressive, if hugely derivative of Heat.

The casting works too. Winstone and Drew make a good partnership, even if the former occasionally looks too old for some of what the script asks of him, especially in regard to the love story element (the love scene between him and Atwell is unnecessary).

While the support is strong, whether it’s from Downton Abbey‘s Allen Leech as a member of The Sweeney, Damian Lewis as their under-used boss, or Anderson as the villain.

Taken on its own hard man merits, The Sweeney ticks a lot of the right boxes. But Love might have fared better still by reigning in some of his natural tendencies and really displaying some finesse or, to quote his own script, panache.

As things stand, The Sweeney is knockabout fun but given the quality of its cast and its action set pieces it could perhaps have been even better and the sort of Mann-inspired crime thriller that its director clearly aspires to.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 112mins
UK Release Date: September 12, 2012