Wednesday, 13 April 2011



Some things work better on TV than on the cinema screen. While the British Film Industry, led by Hammer Films, spent most of the seventies cranking out a consistently dismal string of TV sitcom adaptations to an apparently uncomplaining audience (what else explains three theatrical outings for On The Buses?), cop show adaptations didn't appear to follow suit. You'd have thought it would have been easier, and the theatrical expansion would have been more natural (the adaptations of traditional studio sitcoms suffer from a lack of studio audience), but the first cinema outing for ITV's The Sweeney doesn't feel like anything much except two episodes bolted together and a bit more of the sex, violence and bad language that 1970s ITV wouldn't let them include.

Sweeney! isn't much cop, unfortunately, and watching its unreconstructed tough guys drinking, womanising, shouting and thumping, feels frankly peculiar in the post-Life On Mars era. Regan and Carter (mercifully not recast from John Thaw and Dennis Waterman) look into the apparent suicide of a "social secretary" (Lynda Bellingham) who worked for obviously villainous press agent Barry Foster (complete with hilariously dodgy American accent) and was the mistress of Energy Minister Ian Bannen. As they investigate, Regan gets suspended from the force for drink-driving, Carter and the rest of the Flying Squad are off the case and the bodies keep piling up....

They get to say sod, bastard and bollocks more than they did on primetime; Lynda Bellingham and Diane Keen get them out for the lads and the gunshot wounds are bloodier than usual: enough to get them an X at the time and it's still 18 on DVD today. These things are always fun to watch, whether spotting familiar faces (Colin Welland, Nadim Sawalha, Joe Melia, Brian Glover) or revelling in the cars and the attitudes of days gone by. But it really isn't very good overall and our heroes are, in the cold light of the 21st Century, charmless and unlikeable individuals. Maybe they were back in the 70s as well. I still want to see Sweeney 2, which I gather is more violent (yet was only rated AA originally) and swearier.


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