Slick re­make brings the hurt


The Sweeney Star­ring Ray Win­stone, Ben Drew, Hay­ley Atwell, Damian Lewis, Steven Mack­in­tosh, Paul An­der­son, Alan Ford. Writ­ten by Nick Love and John Hodge, di­rected by Nick Love. 112 min­utes, R16 (vi­o­lence, of­fen­sive lan­guage, sex scenes). Show­ing at Read­ing Cinemas Porirua.

‘‘We da Sweeney, and ya been nicked!’’ With th­ese words we’re in­tro­duced to Ray Win­stone’s di­a­mond-hard geezer cop­per as he puts his arms through a wall and head­locks a crim – though he may have dropped in a cou­ple F-bombs for good mea­sure.

To be hon­est, who knows what he was say­ing, the characters’ Lon­don ver­nac­u­lar is at times im­pen­e­tra­ble. Good fun work­ing it out though.

I couldn’t help think­ing of my dad when watch­ing The Sweeney and not just be­cause it’s the sort of no-non­sense crime thriller he’d em­brace with aban­don. Back in the early 1980s when a VHS was in­tro­duced to our liv­ing room, Sweeney! and Sweeney 2 were among our fam­ily’s first rentals.

But thanks to film-maker Nick Love ( The Foot­ball Fac­tory), De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Jack Re­gan ( Win­stone) and his Sweeney squad (Sweeney Todd be­ing cock­ney for fly­ing squad) have been up­dated for 21st cen­tury Lon­don, which still seems to have its share of gun run­ners and bank rob­bers.

There have been crit­i­cisms that Love’s movie is too Hol­ly­wood, too clean and crisp. Cer­tainly, its cool blue pal­ette and Trafal­gar Square shootout sug­gest the pic­ture is more in awe of Michael Mann’s sem­i­nal – and quite Amer­i­can – Heat than it is its small screen ori­gins. But I’m not com­plain­ing.

Though at times pre­dictable and hack­neyed – we have the dis­ap­prov­ing unit com­man­der (a low key Damian Lewis) and the sniv­el­ling in­ter­nal af­fairs rat (Steven Mack­in­tosh) – the main characters won me out.

Win­stone was born to play an ar­ro­gant thug and Re­gan is all that and more. The nov­elty is that we find our­selves root­ing for him.

Even bet­ter is his fresh-faced side­kick Carter (Ben Drew aka Pommy rap­per Plan B), a thrilljunkie who con­fesses to get­ting a hard-on be­fore a raid, but who is also mind­ful of his grow­ing fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The Sweeney run into trou­ble when they peg a vi­o­lent jew­ellery store heist on the wrong perp, then get em­broiled in an open air gun­fight so reck­less it would make Dirty Harry grin. But are

The Sweeney. they be­ing played? And by whom?

Meh. The film doesn’t dis­tin­guish it­self by its class of bad guys, who are mostly oafs armed to the hilt and with murky mo­tives.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if an­other pic­ture is made, with a fleshier sto­ry­line. There’s enough on show here to get en­thu­si­as­tic, and while there could have been more dirt be­neath the fin­ger­nails, it’s wel­com­ing to see a solid Brit crime drama that mines old school grit in favour of postTarantino swag­ger.

Cock­ney & loaded: Ray Win­stone leads a spe­cial po­lice unit with bru­tal tac­tics and poor pro­nun­ci­a­tion in the en­ter­tain­ing crime drama

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