The Sweeney was a cop drama that ran for four seasons in the 1970s in the UK. I’ve never seen it, so I can’t tell how faithful the 2012 Sweeney is. I can only judge it on its own, and it’s a fantastic crime thriller.
As Jack Regan, Hugo’s Ray Winstone leads the Flying Squad, an elite police force that gets results, but at the risk of tripping numerous inquiries from Internal Affairs. Regan doesn’t give a flip what reactions are triggered by his actions, so long as the bad guys are nabbed with his signature catchphrase, “You’re nicked!”
Annnnd if he happens to pocket a short stack of gold ingots at the site of an armed robbery he and his team just foiled, well, then, so be it.
The bulk of director Nick Love’s film centers around the Flying Squad’s investigation of a jewelry heist in which one young woman loses her life. Their primary suspect is Francis Allen (Paul Anderson, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), a career thug with paramilitary ties.
Notable among Regan’s team are his wiry protégé, George Carter (Ben Drew, Harry Brown), and Nancy Lewis (Hayley Atwell, Captain America: The First Avenger), a much younger married woman with whom Regan’s having an affair. Allen Leech is another notable, but only because he’s now a Downton Abbey son-in-law. Other squad members aren’t integral to the story, which could explain why Love and co-scripter John Hodge (Trainspotting) don’t bother to introduce them.
That’s really OK, because Regan, Carter and Lewis are given lots to do. The Sweeney is, first and foremost, an action film. To that end, the movie begins with the aforementioned robbery foiling and ends with a car chase (staged by TV’s Top Gear guys) through a trailer park. Somewhere in between is a Heat-style shootout in public that would do Michael Mann proud — as would the numerous shots of cityscapes and night-driving.
None of the three primary actors would ever be considered Hollywood’s idea of an action hero — especially the chunky, wrinkled, mid-50s Winstone — and that may be why the film didn’t connect with American audiences during its limited run in theaters this spring. However, it’s exactly those upended expectations that are part of The Sweeney’s appeal. Winstone is the real grit atop the movie’s considerable sheen.
This is the first disc I’ve seen in 2013 that I immediately wanted to replay. It won’t be everyone’s idea of an ideal crime film — let’s face it: Some people just can’t get past accents — but those who respond to it should join me in hoping to hear Regan utter “You’re nicked!” again. —Rod Lott