The Sweeney

8 Jun

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The Sweeney is a film named after The Flying Squad, which is a specialist branch within the London Police Force. (For anybody who doesn’t know, “Sweeney Todd” is Cockney Rhyming Slang for Flying Squad, and thus becomes The Sweeney).

The movie is based on the exploits of does-what-he-wants-when-he-wants, bad-boy detective Jack Regan (Ray Winstone). This is classic Winstone fare; Regan is a hard man, extremely handy with his fits and swears a lot in a stereotyped London accent. If you’ve seen a Ray Winstone film before, you’ll know what to expect here.

Once we’ve had the introduction where we see Regan and his crew sort out an armed robbery, the story is then spoon fed to us. There’s a robbery at a jewelers, after which a woman is shot dead for no apparent reason. Regan quickly works out his main suspect and wants to charge him, but there are several twists and turns along the way.

There is absolutely nothing new in this film at all. A police investigation into a crime doesn’t go as smoothly as they would like. Some people get shot, Regan is at loggerheads with his department, he has a younger detective that he’s pretty much taken under his wing. He’s detective George Carter (Ben Drew), and for large parts of the film he appears to be made of wood. Another prominent part of his team is DC Nancy Lewis (Hayley Atwell). She’s all sexy and good looking so you get to see her dress nice because it would be impossible to enjoy a film if it didn’t have a lovely looking female being glamorous, right? Well, that’s what we’re dealing with The Sweeney.

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To give The Sweeney the bit of credit it deserves, where it is good, it becomes very entertaining. It has a car chase that, although I’d hardly say is exciting, is at least good to look at. It does have a sense of danger and feels fast to watch. There are shoot-outs that, as with everything else in this film, fail to offer anything that we haven’t seen a million times before, but they’re well shot and did pique my interest in the story.

The film is also pleasing on the eye. London looks glorious here; it’s shiny, slick and modern. Director Nick Love has also created a film that often looks as dark and moody as it’s main character, and feels very atmospheric.

So, yes, The Sweeney does do some things well. Unfortunately though, there are far more things to criticise. Chief amongst these is the dialogue. For much of the picture it feels like an extended advert for the Cockney accent and colloquialisms. It reflects poorly on John Hodge and Nick Love as writers that on several occasions Ray Winstone refers to his adversaries as ‘slags’. I couldn’t quite believe they’d played to such a stereotype. If it was hard to believe the first time, it was increasingly irritating with each further use. The dialogue rarely lifts itself above that level which is quite infuriating.

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What about the casting then? Well, Ray Winstone as Regan might be just about the most obvious casting choice in the history of cinema. If you like him, you’ll probably like this film, it’s as simple as that.

Ben Drew (aka rapper Plan B) is a more interesting choice, and gives a performance with plenty of promise but that has some glaring problems. For a start, as I alluded to earlier, his line-delivery often feels so wooden you could varnish it. That said, he grows into the film and handles the more physically demanding sections very well. His on-screen fighting is good and realistic. On this performance, I’d suggest there is certainly a future for him in acting. It’s hard to see how he’ll avoid being typecast though. Films like this are ten-a-penny so I can’t see him struggling for film roles, but I’d be interested to see him push himself in a different type of movie and see how he handles it.

And the rest of the cast? I have pretty much nothing to say. They’re all there, but nobody stands out as being anything above average.

The Sweeney feels like a film that knows exactly what it’s aiming for. At its core, it’s a simple good guys v bad guys story. It’ main protagonist is an archetypal break-the-rules-for-the-greater good kind of guy and his story arc, like much of the story, is entirely predictable. For a film that you don’t have to think about too much, you could probably do worse than this one. It’s mindless entertainment with no heart and weak dialogue.

One suspects that Nick Love has made exactly the film he intended to; I’d guess on this evidence he is not a man too concerned with artistic integrity as long as he entertains. That’s fine, if you can pull it off, and he does achieve it in small bursts. It’s not enough to lift this movie though, and I’ll be in no rush to see the sequel.

5/10

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