Thursday, 13 September 2012



The race to reboot British cult TV action series for the 21st century multiplex circuits is over. The Avengers is probably dead in the water thanks to the Marvel Avengers Uberproject, The Professionals was talked about but appears to have long since stalled, and Dempsey And Makepeace: The Motion Picture will probably never happen, assuming anyone even remembers it. But everyone remembers Regan and Carter: hard-drinking, hard-loving Real Men chasing down villains, smashing up cars, smoking, drinking, and randomly yelling "you slag!" at everyone.

The Sweeney has already had two fair-to-middling cinema outings in the late 1970s with the original cast, where they could have a bit more swearing and violence than on ITV, and this spanking new reimagining has considerably more of both. Regan is now played by Ray Winstone in his best Ray Winstone bear-with-a-sore-head manner; Carter by Ben Drew, alias rapper/hip-hop artist Plan B - neither are anything like the original Regan and Carter; same names, entirely different characters, and crucially not as likeable. The Flying Squad are called in on a particularly vicious armed robbery where a woman was murdered: while Steven Mackintosh's humourless Internal Affairs officer investigates their record of brutality and alleged corruption, they soon have their man - or do they? Matters are not helped by Jack Regan humping Mackintosh's unhappy wife (Hayley Atwell)....

Strangely, the movie it most seems to want to be is Heat, with a blistering shootout in broad daylight after a bank heist through Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery; despite the earlier car chases and fisticuffs that's where the movie suddenly blazes into life. But Nick Love isn't Michael Mann and The Sweeney doesn't have a fraction of the impact of that film: it has little in the way of depth. And like Dirty Harry or Cobra, or so many other Bad Cop action spectaculars through the years, it's largely uncritical of its heroes' methods and their (specifically Regan's) cheerful disregard for due process, legal niceties, the consequences of their decisions or the idea that they might have the wrong man. Who cares? Whose side are you on?

When Carter jokes that the prospect of some real action has given him an erection, you almost feel that applies to the making of the movie and, with luck, the audience: it's a film directed at full cock and ideally watched that way as well. But then Nick Love is not generally one for subtlety: look at Outlaw, a confused, bellowing mess of a vigilante movie with Danny Dyer, or The Business, a Costa Del Crime swearathon with Danny Dyer (in fairness, the DVD broke down twenty minutes from the end so I probably missed all the scenes where Dyer gave the hedonism and casual violence up to become the Guardian's floristry correspondent), movies where brutish, blokey Men snarl and curse and wave their dicks in the air. Even the more romantic scenes are not exactly showcasing homo masculinus at his finest.

As a head-slamming action movie in which the forces of law and order are unrestrained by the forces of law and order, with baseball bats at the ready and over a hundred uses of the F-word (according to the BBFC), The Sweeney is thuggishly entertaining and passes the two hours well enough. It's hollow and empty and there's nothing going on in its head, but Winstone's old school hardnut act is always fun to watch and Drew is perfectly okay as the former delinquent turned eager young cop. And you also get Damien Lewis and Alan Ford (the latter not swearing once). It's not even close to a great movie, but it's decent enough while it's on if you can banish all memories of the TV show (though a heavily remixed version of a bit of the theme music plays over the end credits). You slag.


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