Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell
You may like this if you liked: Taken 2 (Olivier Megaton, 2012), Outlaw (Nick Love, 2007), Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)
Lead by old school style DI Jack Reegan (Winstone), the flying squad get results by methods that could be described as possibly not within the rule book. Their methods come under increased scrutiny when DCI Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh) is called to monitor them. In the following week a series of armed robberies also coincides with the re emergence of brilliant criminal mind and Reegan’s nemesis from yesteryear Francis Allen (Paul Anderson). To get to the bottom of what is going on Reegan and his team are forced to tear up the rule book (because they are obviously so cool) despite being under constant scrutiny from Lewis as well as their boss DCI Frank Hoskins (Damian Lewis). As the genius and extremely layered tagline says: ‘act like a criminal you to catch a criminal”, or some nonsense like that. Oh, and Reegan is also having an affair with DC Nancy Lewis (Atwell) who is a member of his team and wife of Lewis, just to add to the ‘plot’.
So, here we have yet another film that shares the title of a successful TV series, this one directed by Nick Love who doesn’t exactly have a glittering CV. Once again I am afraid to say this is simply a shameless marketing ploy and the only similarities between this and the series are the title and character names. I remember watching the series when I was younger and thoroughly enjoyed the urban-rough-around-the-edges-gritty-beefcake-unique-British-ness of it. The whole story of men responsible for the law but sometimes blurring the lines to get results is nothing new, but it worked. John Thaw and Dennis Waterman gave us likeable edgy characters; there was a genuine reason for what they did. Unfortunately here we are subjected to Ray Winstone, Ben Drew and co. calling everyone a slag and basically beating the crap out of anyone they think is a criminal. Oh yes, I just mentioned that Ben Drew is also in it didn’t I? It is very easy to forget as this film is all about Winstone. The original TV series was based around a watertight relationship between Reegan and Carter, filled with banter and mutual respect. This is pretty much about Reegan shouting at everyone, being a general arsehole and occasionally sitting around in his pants. This is a minor footnote, but these moments of Winstone in his pants show that there was potential here for an interesting story. These moments almost suggest a middle aged man facing his own mortality and the mortality of his out of date methods. But that never happens and would not happen in a film directed by Nick Love.
Now we have established that, and forgetting the TV series ever existed, does it work as a film on its own? It most certainly does not as The Sweeney is an absolutely terrible film in its own right. There is nothing redeeming about the characters or the film at all. In terms of the characters; I get the whole ‘cops who are mavericks and bend the rules to get results are cool’ nonsense, however this film goes way too far with that notion. The fact is they go way too far and unfortunately Reegan also steals some gold from the robbery they stop in the opening scene. This is not the best start and proves that once again Nick Love has missed the point. Just like in the god awful Outlaw, Nick Love has taken a good concept and blown it to smithereens, also in this case while getting Ray Winstone to constantly call it a “slag”! The horrific brutality and downright stealing just leads us to hate the characters we are supposed to side with. We are obviously supposed to dislike Lewis, but we cannot help but side with him as I found myself absolutely hating all the supposed ‘good guys’. I wanted them all to get sacked, go to prison or get killed as they were just terrible. Flawed protagonists are one thing, but they have to have some redeemable or likeable quality. They do not here which is not a particularly good basis for an action film. I like to think a degree in film studies taught me something!
The sheer brutality of our ‘heroes’ is one of the huge gaping plot holes as they would blatantly never get away with some of the things they do and we do not want them to. Oh yes, I just mentioned the word ‘plot’. Well, there isn’t really one. The developments in the final third are one part lazy and one part beyond comprehension. Maybe even the writers had given up at this point? When the final ‘action’ set piece is set in a caravan park apparently in Gravesend you know not to exactly expect epic things. Even the action in this film is awful; the (few) shootouts and (even fewer) chases are shoddily put together and as about intense as knitting. Not only are these characters terrible human beings, but they are also the worst detectives and the worst shots in the history of cop films. There are so many bullets and shots fired in random directions it goes beyond comical farce. Another thing to show how much of an absolute mess The Sweeney is is the cinematography. Throughout the narrative everything is in pale colours and appears very clean and futuristic, hardly fitting with the supposed ‘gritty’ theme. This was a very bizarre choice that is simply beyond comprehension. No it is not clever and an intentional contrast to the characters’ old school methods, before anyone even suggests that!
Oh yes, Reegan is having an affair with Nancy Lewis isn’t he? Well this mainly produces some embarrassing and cringe worthy scenes. There is one ‘dramatic’ scene which could have made great emotional impact, but it fails miserably making that ‘subplot’ all rather pointless as we simply cannot care by this point.
Or maybe of course, when everything I have said is considered, Nick Love is in fact a genius and I and everyone else have completely missed the point. The Sweeney is therefore maybe in fact one of the best spoofs in cinema history?!?
So then, to sum it up: Terrible dialogue, terrible story, terrible action, terrible acting and terrible characters that all make Taken 2 feel like Othello. The Sweeney is a car crash of a film to be avoided at all costs, you slag!