Following the conclusion of the London Olympics and the release of Cockneys Vs. Zombies, Cockneys seems to be experiencing a boom in popularity which could make the timing of The Sweeney inspired. So, does this modernisation of the classic 1970’s Cop show work now set in modern day London? For the most part, yes it does, but there are a few things that could have been tweaked to make it a better film (and assuming realism is sought after with The Sweeney, a more plausible film too). The plot is pretty standard, a seemingly straightforward murder at a jewellery heist turns out to be more than meets the eye, and it’s up to our two favourite members of the Flying Squad to piece together the puzzle.
Let’s start with the positives. It’s rare that an action movie is allowed to make such a wide use of central London locations but The Sweeney’s iconic status opened a lot of doors while filming, the highlight of which is a shootout in Trafalgar Square. It’s an incredibly exciting action sequence that also proves to be an amazing technological achievement as it makes great subtle use of CGI to create bullet hits and gun flashes that could not be replicated on set due to the open public setting. Of course action in general is the main focus of the film and as well as the aforementioned scene there are some very lively car chase set pieces.
Ray Winstone and Ben Drew (otherwise known as Plan B) make up great buddy cop team and have great chemistry who play well of each other and provide us with some great one liners and comedy moments. Too, there is some quite smart dialogue as crime scenes are analysed and by way of tribute to the original series the famous interrogation scenes are authentically recreated. Problems start to present themselves in periods of extended dialogue though, as the delivery begins to feel forced.
And with that criticism, that is where the compliments end. The plot is pretty simplistic and certainly isn’t going to challenge the audience as it becomes quite predictable in places. Some plot devices used, while remaining faithful to the original series are hardly aesthetically pleasing. After it is revealed early in the film that a female member of Regan’s team has an ongoing affair with Regan, we are treated to a number of awkward sex scenes that, because of Regan’s unflattering size and age (especially compared to his partner) aren’t exactly pleasing to watch.
While the speed of the film is a big help to the action scenes, it does present a problem elsewhere as the film moves at such a fast pace you barely get a chance to build any connection with or to identify with the characters. The Sweeney would definitely have been helped by giving more time to establish characters before diving into the frenetic sequences. It feels very much as though everybody working on the film banked on the whole audience understanding the dynamics and characterisation from the original series but given that it originally aired nearly 40 years ago, there will be a large proportion of the audience with no previous exposure to the characters or the setup.
And so that is The Sweeney. Overall it’s an average film that is buoyed up with some excellent action sequences and some fun comedic moments, but one that could ultimately have benefitted with more thought and development on the script. One additional query to add is that the opening sequence in which Carter pursues an armed villain includes a nonsensical scene where the villain throws his weapon to the ground for no clear reason. It felt tacked on purely as a way to establish that Carter is a central character and I would love to know if the scene served any other intended purpose!
Nonetheless, The Sweeney is likely to draw a solid audience, although it may be that younger audience members will be attending as they are fans of Plan B’s music Fans of the original series may be left a little disappointed at how the classic detective series is treated here.