The Sweeney
dir Nick Love
scr John Hodge, Nick Love
prd Allan Niblo, Rupert Preston, James Richardson, Christopher Simon, Felix Vossen
with Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Damian Lewis, Steven Mackintosh, Allen Leech, Alan Ford, Paul Anderson, Steven Waddington, Kara Tointon, Nick Nevern, Allan Corduner
release UK 12.Sep.12
12/UK Vertigo 1h52
The Sweeney
Sweeney Todd, Flying Squad: Winstone and Drew

atwell lewis mackintosh
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Sweeney After a series of scruffy crime dramas, Love ups his game considerably with this lean, sleek cop thriller based on the iconic 1970s TV series. Although the film isn't much more than a stretched-out television episode, its characters are lively and engaging.

Jack (Winstone) is the grizzled head of the Flying Squad, aka the Sweeney, an elite team of undercover London cops charged with tackling major armed crime. But they're also the subject of an internal investigation by Lewis (Mackintosh), which is a problem since Lewis' wife Nancy (Atwell) is a member of the squad. She's also having an affair with Jack. Meanwhile, their captain (Lewis) is struggling to justify their current case, a jewellery heist connected to an international thief (Anderson). But Jack, his partner-protege George (Drew) and the team are determined to crack it.

Like a TV show, the film mixes soap-opera subplots with its twisty procedural narrative. The case is twisty and entertaining, even though we never care about what's going on since we know our heroes will win out in the end. Even when Jack is stripped of gun and badge, we know he'll solve everything on his terms. And like episodic TV, the three central characters so dominate the screen that the other characters amount to essentially one personality trait.

Fortunately, Winstone, Drew and Atwell bring all sorts of interesting depth to their roles, generating a strong sense of camaraderie and loyalty while also finding the necessary gallows humour even in the grisliest situations. Lewis is watchable even if he doesn't have much to do as the hovering captain, while Mackintosh just about locates his one-note nasty character's emotional subtext.

The film's only other notable aspect is the way Love shoots and edits. Instead of sticking in the grimy corners of the East End, Love shows off a shinier, urbane London with cool cars, flashy office blocks and trendy flats. He also makes terrific use of the river, parks and, in one heart-racing sequence, Trafalgar Square. This visual approach, combined with textured performances from the leading trio, gives the film a whiff of cinematic quality even as the script leaves us waiting for next week's episode.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 22.Aug.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall