Cops act like robbers in underwhelming Brit TV reboot of ‘The Sweeny’
Updated: February 28, 2013 2:16PM
There’s very little going on here that you haven’t seen before, maybe hundreds of times, in cop movies and TV shows — without Cockney accents to decipher.
But at least “The Sweeney” comes with a pedigree, as a reboot of an ultra-popular, ultra-gritty ’70s British TV series about an elite Flying Squad of tough cops bringing Dirty Harry tactics to bear on hard core London criminals. Another incarnation of the show is a big event in Britain and it may be for you also, if you happen to have seen it. Though it’s hard to imagine anyone being entirely satisfied with this over-long and under-whelming crime drama — despite occasional adrenaline jolts from nicely handled car chases, thug thumpings and gun battles.
Veteran screen tough-guy Ray Winstone (“Sexy Beast,” “The Departed”) takes over from original “Sweeney” star John Thaw (later “Inspector Morse”) as Regan, the aging but still rules-be-damned leader of the leather-jacketed Sweeneys (as in Sweeney Todd, cockney rhyming slang for Flying Squad). Regan is a crusty old sod — gray-haired, slow-moving and carrying a sizable gut — but he still gets the crime-busting job done, by any means necessary. Such as taking loot from foiled holdups to pay off a well-connected informer.
That sort of thing, plus unnecessary force as a matter of routine, has attracted the attention of bloodless, upper-class Internal Affairs inspector Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), who is dedicated to getting rid of Regan — and possibly shutting the Sweeney down altogether. Regan knows how to handle toffs like that, though. He starts an affair with Lewis’s much-younger wife Nancy (Hayley Atwell), who also happens to be a member of his team. Leading to a few too many sex scenes that will most likely titillate no one except men of the AARP.
While the emotions generated by those extra-marital shenanigans boost the film’s drama quotient, Regan and his young right-hand man George Carter (musician/actor Ben Drew) work on two cases simultaneously: a jewelry holdup/homicide and the armed robbery of a private bank, which leads to an epic gunfight in Trafalgar Square — and the deaths of several civilians and a Sweeney. And to Regan, who disobeyed direct orders not to confront the robbers in such a heavily populated area, being busted by Lewis and shipped off to prison, where he is not particularly popular.
Naturally, the two cases turn out to be linked and naturally (though not at all credibly), Regan is eventually released just in time to help the Sweeneys track down the bad guys. None of that makes sense — in fact, there’s not much in the convoluted plot of “The Sweeney” that does — but if atmosphere and action is all you need, that shouldn’t matter. If you want to lessen the risk of frustrations, though, consider watching this film On Demand (where it’s being released simultaneously) instead of at a theater.
That way you can fast-forward through the slow bits and cut straight to the chase, and the thumpings and the shootouts.