The Sweeney – Review
Nick Love is the quintessential “Cockney-wideboy”; speaking with the accent of an East End fruit merchant, liberally dropping C-bombs wherever he walks, he often arrogantly lauds his own work as high-octane entertainment for the “lads”. After his quite hilarious tirade on the DVD commentary of Outlaw (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCnzWgk2UhQ), it has become difficult for anyone to take him seriously as a director, and unfortunately The Sweeney doesn’t really do anything to help remedy this despite probably being his best film to date and certainly his best looking.
Based on the television series from the 70s, The Sweeney follows cock-er-ney coppers Regan (Winstone) and Carter (Ben Drew); members of the Met’s no holds barred Flying Squad, as they attempt to take down the London underworld with baseball bats, brute force and bravado. Seasoned southerner Ray Winstone and the capable, while not spectacular, Ben Drew head an impressive cast that also boasts the stunning Hayley Atwell as Winstone’s (very unbelievable and often awkward) love interest and the ever-amazing Damian Lewis as the team’s senior officer trying to keep them out of trouble. Unfortunately, the entire cast suffer badly from a clunky script with dialogue that frequently has Winstone doing a parody of himself and a story that aimlessly wanders off on a tangent a few too many times, but then, an Aaron Sorkin like script was never going to be the draw with The Sweeney. Winstone’s gravelly hard man shtick is cranked up to eleven as he bludgeons his way through London calling everyone a “slag” and getting things done by any means necessary. It would probably be easier to digest if the film took a cue from the series and confidently had fun with the genre, but the main problem is that it occasionally believes it is smarter than it actually is. Attempting to emulate genre classics like Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break and Michael Mann’s Heat, Love liberally lifts wholesale from US heist movies of old rather than take inspiration from the original TV series it is based and ultimately, this is where the film falters – it just doesn’t feel completely like a British property, more like an imitation of its contemporaries from across the pond. Scenes are splashed with Michael Bay oranges and blues, Michael Mann style inner city shoot outs sans music frequently pop up and the soundtrack is almost a carbon copy of The Dark Knight and Bad Boys. Another disappointment is that the film’s villain played by Paul Anderson wasn’t let off the leash a bit more. I had hoped for an unhinged and animated bad guy to really balance out proceedings, but instead his talent is wasted as a by the numbers bad guy with the movie’s main villain turning out to be an internal affairs officer trying to bring down the flying squad. A massive shame considering the out and out psychopathic rawness Anderson brought to his previous film, Piggy.
It’s not all bad of course. When Love finally puts tongue in cheek, it is at its most endearing, and the relationship between Regan and Carter, and consequently the chemistry between Winstone and Drew, really shines. The production values are actually quite high too, and Love makes London look absolutely incredible with stunning aerial cityscape shots and a couple of quite exceptional action scenes, including a breath taking shoot out in Trafalgar Square. Yes it’s not wholly original in its execution of such, but The Sweeney clearly excels when dialogue is limited to the screech of tyres and the explosion of bullet shells. When the story sticks strictly to cops chasing robbers, it’s quite simply a blast and Love deserves a lot of credit for delivering heart-stopping action at such a high standard. It’s just a pity there is a lot of unnecessary story that clogs up all the fun.
If you leave your thinking cap at the popcorn stand, it’s certainly entertaining enough to warrant a watch. It’s stupid, it’s ballsy and it’s brash; very much like all Nick Love’s characters actually. It doesn’t stand on a level with the movies it is obviously trying to emulate, but it’s not the worst film of the year, not by a long shot. Just be thankful that Danny Dyer didn’t decide to show up. You slag.
The Sweeney is released nationwide on September the 12th.
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