Stars: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Damian Lewis, Caroline Chikezie
Writers: Nick Love & John Hodge, based on the television series created by Ian Kennedy Martin
Director: Nick Love
Release Date: March 1, 2013, theatrical and video on demand
THE SWEENEY is based on the ‘70s U.K. police drama of the same name, created by Ian Kennedy Martin and starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. For its day, the show was gritty and controversial, showing cops who violently went around the law in the name of upholding it (think more Jack Bauer than Vic Mackey).
Now director Nick Love and co-screenwriter John Hodge have updated THE SWEENEY for the present day. The violence, language and sex here are all R-rated, but the overall storyline of the film wouldn’t be out of place on any two-parter of a current cop drama on either side of theAtlantic. Respected team leader goes after a particularly violent gang, gets framed, and a junior member of the squad with his own problems must rise to the occasion and clear his boss/friend’s name.
So far, so okay. However, THE SWEENEY as a film has a not-so-secret weapon in leading man Ray Winstone, who plays Jack Regan, head of the “Flying Squad.” Jack smokes too much, is having an affair with a female co-worker (Hayley Atwell) who’s married to a mutual colleague (Steven Mackintosh), and does himself no good whatever when he tries to straighten things out with his bosses. He does know how to catch crooks and he will take a villain down if it’s the last thing he does. Winstone has one of the toughest screen presences ever. He’s not a caricature of machismo – we can see Regan’s vulnerabilities and concerns – but we don’t doubt for an instant that the character is capable of pulverizing anyone he feels ought to be put down, regardless of legal or physical consequences. We believe everything he does, and we’re half on his side, half terrified of him, which makes for a good sense of engagement with the otherwise not-entirely-novel proceedings.
Ben Drew is good as the young “Flying Squad” member who is caught between ambition and loyalty. It’s fun – especially for viewers of HOMELAND – to see Damian Lewis as Jack’s put-upon working-class boss. Mackintosh, as the man whose wife is ready to leave him for Jack, does a strong job of conveying real outrage and despair.
Director Nick Love comes up with some good, inventive shots, including one emotional scene where we can see both characters’ faces even though they’re looking at one another because the person whose back is to the viewer is facing a mirror. This is so effective that other filmmakers might do well to adopt it from time to time. Love also stages a car chase with the best of them, giving us a sense of real out-of-control danger.
THE SWEENEY has DIRTY HARRY sensibilities, which is to say that the cops don’t mistakenly pistol-whip wrongly suspected civilians. In reality, this Flying Squad would be a scary group of individuals. In a movie, however, especially led be Winstone’s Jack, they make for reasonably diverting companions through the mean streets of London.
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Article: Movie Review: THE SWEENEY