If you want to see people get nicked in proper British fashion by a very unglamorous Ray Winstone then The Sweeney is for you. From writer-director Nick Love, The Sweeney is based on the 70s TV series of the same name and tells the story of Jack Regan (Winstone) and the London Police’s Flying Squad. Regan is the hardnosed leader of the squad, which uses questionable and less than legal tactics in its apprehension of criminals – they’re the Sweeney and they’re most certainly not messing around!
Wielding baseball bats and hurling trashcan lids, Regan and his team make for a gruff and uncouth but amiable bunch as they delve deep into a troubling jewellery store robbery that also involves a murder. At the same time however, an internal investigation begins into the Sweeney. This proves more than problematic however as Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), the man in charge of the investigation, has a more personal beef with Regan – it turns out that Regan is sleeping with Lewis’ wife (Hayley Atwell). This poses a dilemma for Sweeney team member George Carter (Ben Drew), who isn’t sure if his loyalties lie with Regan or Lewis.
The procedural stuff here is really kind of superfluous though, as the real meat of the story is Regan and Carter’s dogged pursuit of the men who are responsible for the robbery. Predictably, there’s a wider web of intrigue and everything isn’t as straightforward as it might initially seem. That said, it’s still all rather obvious, oscillating widely from a more serious tone to over-the-top and brutal hilarity whenever the Sweeney appear and start doing what they do best. Indeed, there’s a terrific shootout here that wouldn’t have felt out of place in a movie like Heat, and any time Winstone is cracking heads and laying on the British humour the movie is at its indulgent best.
The action is backed up by an effective score from composer Lorne Balfe that felt very Hans Zimmer-ish, reminding me of stuff from movies like The Dark Knight. Unsurprisingly, I’ve since learned that Balfe worked alongside Zimmer on a significant number of occasions – the influence is immediately recognisable. This is a good thing too since the film’s visuals are just kind of bland. Everything has a cold, blue and low budget feel to it. It’s not a big deal though; despite its few low points The Sweeney remains a highly enjoyable guilty pleasure with solid action and hardboiled British charm to see it through.
Although predictable and sporting an uneven tone, The Sweeney has plenty of Ray Winstone taking names and kicking ass.