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