Why… the hell… would anyone want to have sex with Ray Winstone?
This is the central question raised by the 2012 remake of the 70’s british police drama series, The Sweeney. Sure, there are dirty cops, violent criminals and a car chase through a trailer park, but at the end of the day that was the conundrum that stuck with me. But I digress…
In any case, as you can tell by the fact that this is the fifth movie I’ve reviewed since I’ve been in Europe (four of which have been action flicks), I
have a bit of a thing for movies. On my second to
last day in Dublin I decided to check out one more movie that also has not yet been released in the USA, and for reasons I’m not somewhat skeptical of I decided to see The Sweeney over Anna Karenina. The reason for that retroactive skepticism is that The Sweeney amounts to little more than a faint echo of the multitude of dirty-cop-dramas it tries to stand alongside.
The film opens up with an armed robbery being broken up by one of the most undisciplined feeling police squads you’ve ever seen. That squad is The Flying Squad aka “The Sweeney”, a division of the London Metropolitan Police known for unruly tactics (I.e. using baseball bats and brass knuckles to brawl suspects into submission). Led by Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) and his partner George Carter (Rapper turned actor Ben Drew), The Sweeney has enjoyed a decent amount of leeway for its unorthodox methods as a result of the squads’ strong rate of success, but that leeway begins to shrink as the department comes under the scrutiny of an Internal Affairs agent Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh). Whether the crackdown is a result of the increasing stack of lawsuits being filed against The Sweeney or the fact that Jack
happens to be shagging Lewis’ wife and fellow member of the Sweeney, Nancy (Hayley Atwell), it proves to take place at quite the inopportune time as Regan and Co. are faced with tackling one of their most challenging cases involving armed robbery, executions and international career criminals. Over the course of the film, Jack, George and the rest of their team struggle to bring in the culprits while keeping their necks above the rising tide of oversight from the IA.
As the poster would suggest, the film is centered on Jack and George, but it’s Jack who truly dominates the screen time. Winstone looks the part of the aging, tough as nails cop with his gruff voice, mashed up face and the “look at me, I’m a badass” leather jacket, but he just never grabbed me in the way that past iconic “dirty cop” characters have. He’s given some chance to develop Jack’s personality in his scenes with Nancy and his partnership with George, but overall Jack ends up hovering somewhere between hardened crime-fighter and tortured soul. Winstone just doesn’t have the charisma necessary to measure up to the likes of Dirty Harry. Ben Drew is perfectly fine but isn’t even given the meager development that Jack is privy to and I ended up feeling like he was more in control of the scenes in the fight scenes than any scenes that required him to open his mouth.
Other than our two protagonists, I do tend to enjoy seeing Steven Mackintosh in roles outside of the Underworld Series (Check him out in the first season of BBC’s Luther), and I would consider him to be a bright spot among the otherwise dull cast. That almost became a problem though, seeing as his character is intended to be something of a nonviolent antagonist to Regan yet I often found myself rooting more for Ivan than I was for Jack. In the same vein as Mackintosh I also have had a warm spot in my heart for Damian Lewis ever since Band of Brothers, but is role as the sympathetic sergeant of The Sweeney was arguably one of the least interesting characters I’ve seen him play.
And last but not least, we come to Hayley Atwell as Nancy. Whatever has happened to your taste in men, Hayley? You were the envy of about 90% of the female population when you served as Chris Evan’s love interest in Captain America, yet now you seem to have developed a taste for hideous geezers with beer guts. I know your marriage is getting you down and Freud tells us we all have Oedipal complexes, but for the love of God please spare us the thought of Ray Winstone taking advantage of any woman’s daddy complex and find someone under 50 to whisper sweet nothings into your ear.
The Verdict: 6.0/10 (Aggressively) Mediocre
The Remake craze of late has left the cinematic landscape with a whole mess of hits and misses, but The Sweeney is a prime example of how easy it is for a remake to fall into the latter by failing to show audiences anything we haven’t seen before. With some admittedly exciting actions scenes involving drift-filled car chases and a frantic shootout in Trafalgar Square, The Sweeney borrows a lot from past great action movies like Point Break and Heat but lacks the strong characters and assured direction that made both of those films truly memorable. My hat goes off to director Nick Love for his ambition and I won’t go so far as to say that the movie is necessarily “bad”, but my recommendation for you readers yearning for action would be to check out Dredd 3D instead.