The Sweeney (15)
Directed by: Nick Love
Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Damian Lewis, Paul Anderson, Steven Mackintosh
Running Time: 112 mins
Based on the 70′s television series, The Sweeney follows officers Jack Reagan (Ray Winstone) and George Carter (Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew), members of London’s Metropolitan Police Force’s ‘Flying Squad’ – a special section dedicated to investigating and preventing armed robberies who frequently break the rules to get the job done. When Reagan and Carter are called to investigate the robbery of a jewelers where an innocent bystander has been shot and killed, Reagan recognises the methods used to crack the store’s safe as those of a man named Allen (Paul Anderson) who he previously dealt with and put behind bars.
Determined to catch him, Reagan leads the squad in the investigation, under the watchful eye of his superior Frank Haskins (Damian Lewis) whilst also having to deal with Inspector Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), a member of Internal Affairs who is investigating the Flying Squad for their reckless behaviour. Complicating matters is the fact that Reagan is having an affair with Lewis’ wife Nancy (Hayley Atwell), an officer in his team.
The original 70′s TV series that starred John Thaw as Reagan and Dennis Waterman as Carter is something that I can remember briefly from growing up, it’s similar to the recent stylings seen displayed by the character of Gene Hunt in the U.K. series Life on Mars. As a result, one of the things that stands out most about this movie is how The Sweeney uses rather outdated tactics (baseball bats at a raid?) that, given today’s world filled with CCTV and mobile phone cameras, would make them the top story on all news with people screaming abuse and excessive force. This is touched upon briefly by someone calling Reagan a dinosaur at one point though never really covered. This isn’t the only issue that the movie’s writing suffers from, with the plot at times managing to be predictable and yet others unecessarily complicated, and with supporting characters that are average at best and largely cliché.
Hayley Atwell’s Nancy provides an interesting love interest for Reagan if a little obviously a plot device to stir things between him and the man investigating him, her husband – who is perhaps the most clichéd of the lot. Carter’s pregnant girlfriend and his step-son exist purely as motivation for his character, but are left in the background so much they barely suit even being classed as supporting characters, and the villain is your a-typical bad guy and could have been given more to do within the movie’s story.
But this isn’t about these other characters it’s about the partnership between Reagan and Carter. Ray Winstone gives a great, if typical performance as Reagan, a man realising that the job is all that means anything to him yet faces losing it because he can’t adapt to changing circumstances, and is particularly good when he gets tunnel vision as an old enemy pops up in his crosshairs. Most surprising though is Ben Drew as Carter, who struggles between his loyalty to Reagan and his responsibilities to his family (which as already mentioned could have been given more to do). Drew gives a stronger performance than I expected from him, holding his own in scenes with Winstone, and is certainly one to keep an eye out for in future performances.
Nick Love directs the movie with a flare for the visual that almost comes off as a poor man’s Michael Mann, something along the lines of Heat and Miami Vice but not as polished – during the movie the thought of Mann’s movies popped into my head long before a lengthy high-street shootout that’s derivitive of one in Heat, but this didn’t prevent it making for a decent action sequence. There’s also a couple of car chases which are well directed and edited, though the second car chase which follows a small shootout is unnecessary and could have been left out for a more expediated finale to the movie as at that point it’s 112 minute runtime does start to feel as though things are dragging on a bit.
Nevertheless, The Sweeney is an above average British action movie that rivals a number of hollywood blockbusters. It’s especially surprising given that the movie’s budget is reportedly around the £5 million mark, a measly sum for what the finished product has turned out to be. There’s a musical score in the movie composed by Lorne Balfe that helps to give it an edgy feel, and adds to the atmosphere consistently throught. Winstone as always is great to watch, while Nick Love and Ben Drew have now popped up on my radar as ones to keep an eye out for in the future. It won’t win any awards for originality but it’s far from the mess it should be, in fact it’s turned out to be decent entertainment.