out of Five
Running time: 107
The Sweeney is pacily directed, superbly acted and delivers some exciting action sequences, but the only elements that remain from the TV show are the names of the characters and the central catchphrase.
What's it all abaaaht?
Directed by Nick Love, The Sweeney is nominally based on the popular 1970s TV show and stars Ray Winstone as hardened Flying Squad cop Jack Regan. Acting on a tip-off from a shady informant (Alan Ford), Regan and his partner George Carter (Ben Drew) arrest known criminal Francis Allen (Paul Anderson) for a jewellery shop heist in which a woman was killed. However, they're forced to let him go after his alibi holds up, calling the Squad's judgement and methods into disrepute. To complicate matters still further, Regan is sleeping with his colleague Nancy (Hayley Atwell), who's married to Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), the man in charge of the Internal Affairs investigation.
Winstone can do this sort of thing in his sleep, but he turns in a fully committed performance that occasionally hints at a more vulnerable side to Regan, even if we perhaps didn't need to see him clambering on top of Hayley Atwell or having sex with her in a toilet (be prepared: it isn't pretty and you won't be able to unsee it). Drew is equally good as Carter, pulling off a measured deadpan turn that works well, while there's strong support from Atwell, Damian Lewis (as Regan's boss) and Steven Mackintosh, who's splendidly slimy as Lewis.
Say what you like about director Nick Love (here taking a break from making films about lairy, sweary football hooligans or gangsters to make a film about lairy, sweary cops), but he knows his way around an action sequence and he duly orchestrates a number of exciting set-pieces, including a high speed country lane chase and a thrilling maximum firepower shootout in and around Trafalgar Square. Indeed, the location work in general is extremely impressive, staging key scenes in London locations that aren't often seen on film.
The main problem is that the only thing the film takes from the TV version is the character names and catchphrases (‘You're nicked’, ‘You slaaaags’, etc), completely ignoring the show's whole set-up of underfunded cops getting the job done (Love's Sweeney have hi-tech surveillance equipment, a flashy glass-walled office complex and an iPad each). Similarly, the dialogue is passable but should have been a lot better, while the derivative plot borrows liberally from The Dark Knight and nicks its key action sequences from Heat; there's also a pointless prison sequence that has no consequence and serves no purpose other than to reference Winstone's role as ‘The Daddy’ in Scum.
Providing you have no emotional attachment to the TV series, The Sweeney is an entirely watchable cop thriller, enlivened by strong performances and exciting action scenes, though it's slightly let down by a patchy and occasionally derivative script.