Home Video Hovel: The Sweeney, by Sarah Brinks
I didn’t know when I started watching The Sweeney that it was actually a TV series in the UK from 1975-1978. I truly hope that if I had some knowledge of the TV series it would have helped me enjoy the film more. However, I did not and the film struggles to stand on its own merit. In a post-Taken world an older man as an action hero is not as unheard of as it once was. However, when you replace tough, fit Liam Neeson with gruff, pot-bellied Ray Winstone the idea starts to move back into the absurd.
Winstone plays Detective Inspector Jack Regan, the lead cop on an elite task force with the police called “The Sweeney.” “The Sweeney” are a ragtag group of cops who shoot first and ask questions later (sound familiar?). Of course, this group is riding the edge of being shut down due to use of excessive force, property damage and rule breaking. The group is a tightknit, diverse team that count on each other to go all out and hold nothing back. Rough and tumble youth, Detective Constable George Carter, shed his criminal past and has moved quickly up the ranks and is Regan’s right hand man. There is also the rookie cop played by Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech. There is the beautiful but tough woman DC Nancy Lewis. The rest of the team is given no more development then; the black man, the black woman, the guy that gets shot in the neck, and Major Duncan Heyward from The Last of the Mohicans. One of the most unbelievable elements of the plot is that Lewis is having an affair with Regan. We have to watch several love scenes between them and they are some of the least sexy sex scenes ever. Lewis is a sexy, young woman who you never believe would cheat on her handsome, young, boring husband with chubby, old Regan. There are a handful of much more believable love interests for her on the team.
The basic plot of the film is that there is an armed robbery and murder at a small jewelry store and “The Sweeney” have to solve it. In the meantime they are being investigated by Internal Affairs led by DC Lewis’ husband (Luther fans will recognize Steven Mackintosh as DCI Ivan Lewis). “The Sweeney” are one mistake away from being shut down. Sound familiar? It should. The Sweeney suffers from most cop-movie clichés. The rookie gets shot in the first week on the team. The young cop is a family man and the grizzled old cop only has the job. The team is given 24 hours to solve the crime before the suspected criminal gets released from police custody. The grizzled cop is skimming off the top to pay off informants. After going against orders the grizzled cop has to turn in his badge and gun… then goes rogue and goes after the bad guy anyway. The only obvious cliché that is missing is that Regan isn’t one case away from retirements (though maybe he should be).
I had high hopes for this film in the beginning. They use the opening credit sequence to get in some necessary exposition out of the way by flashing police reports in between the credits. The opening action scene is flashy, a lot of fun, and gives a short hand for the dynamics of the team members and their over-the-top techniques of crime fighting and the higher-ups reaction to those techniques. After the first twenty the film begins to drag. The Sweeney suffers from over-length.
I don’t want to make it sound like there is nothing redeeming about the film. The film looks great, they use a blue filter throughout the film that gives it a stylized and sharp look. The action scenes are competently shot and exciting to watch. The opening action scene in particular is a lot of fun and so is the firefight in Trafalgar Square. However, the Trafalgar Square sequence really served to illustrate how silly Winstone looks as a portly, middle-aged man surrounded by young, fit police officers.
The DVD/Blu-ray two-disc set has a lot of special features. There is a behind the scenes feature, a feature on shooting in Trafalgar Square that I enjoyed, a discussion with the cast and crew about creating the new Regan and Carter characters and much more. I watched the Blu-ray and it looked great.
Unlike the recent and much more successful reboot of 21 Jump Street, The Sweeney would have been better off just changing the character names and releasing it under a different title. It is so modernized that the reboot element of it is practically irrelevant. If you can’t get your copy of Taken back from your brother then The Sweeney is a serviceable replacement. Beyond that I would give it a miss. It isn’t deserving of your 112 minutes.