Director: Nick Love
Starring, Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Damien Lewis.
Written by Nick Love, John Hodge and (source material) Ian Kennedy Martin
Running Time: 112 mins
Release date: 12th September 2012
I have to admit I am not a huge fan of director Nick Love. I’ve always found his films to be vile and very hard to watch. So when I heard he was directing a remake of the classic, iconic British cop series of the 70s, The Sweeney, my heart well and truly sank. I do, however, have to eat humble pie and say that Mr Love has done a pretty decent job. Not perfect but almost there. He did the right thing and turned his attention to the good guys plus he got the casting spot-on, which really helps.
The Sweeney, the nickname for the Flying Squad, are a small band of police officers who deal with violent crimes, mainly robbery. Their methods are frowned upon as their attitude is, you have to think like a criminal to catch a criminal. Led by thuggish Jack Regan and his young partner George Carter, they start to investigate a jewellery robbery where an innocent bystander was murdered. The case isn’t the only thing that is bothering Regan, as Internal Affairs are breathing down his neck, especially Ivan Lewis, a man desperate to take Regan out of the game, as the cop is having an affair with Lewis’ wife.
Okay, so the plot is, well, wafer thin and to be honest, if you were a fan of the show, all the plots weren’t massively complex. What Nick Love has done is wisely brought it right up to date with the street language (and it is a very sweary film), mixed in some topical crooks (no longer just London wideboys) and at the same time captured a modern London. In fact, London plays a huge part in this film, as you fly around the various streets but not just the tourist traps that often appear in British films (although one the iconic places is used to unusual effect).
This isn’t the greatest action film ever but for a British movie, it’s not far off. The set pieces are well handled, especially an explosive gunfight in and around Trafalgar Square (which got the permission from Sweeney fan, London Mayor Boris Johnson) and some decent car chases (curtsey of the Top Gear crew).
Love also has brought in some heavyweights to star. Man of the moment Damien Lewis plays the smart-dressed Gov of the Flying Squad while Steven Mackingtosh is perfect slimy as Lewis. Hayley Atwell also gets a challenge in the action department as Lewis’ wife and Regan’s lover.
Stepping into Dennis Waterman’s shoes as Carter, is rapper Plan B, Ben Drew, and while he proved himself in Harry Brown as a thug, he comes a little unstuck in such a famous role. He handles the fight sequences well but his comeuppance is in the more emotional scenes and his delivery can come across a little on one level. It also doesn’t help that you are partnered with the Daddy.
This film well and truly belongs to Ray Winstone. Bringing a new dimension to the role made famous by the late, great John Thaw, Winstone takes it up a level and makes him harder, tougher and down-right brutal. Winstone commands the screen. His mere presence is enough to make you want to rush and see this. From his surprise entrance to the end, you know you are in the company of greatness, not only as a physical force but emotional too. Memories of his days in Scum are also brought back to life in the prison scene, when he prepares to meet some fellow thugs with a sock full of batteries.
It is refreshing to see a British film that is neither a rom com or a costume drama and shows that while Hollywood can produce the action films, so can we in our small little way. This also could be the start of a series of new Sweeney adventures and I, for one, will be watching with interest.