The Sweeney: you Winstone, you lose some

I must admit that sitting in the cinema, waiting for Nick Love’s remake of the 1970s police drama, The Sweeney, to start, I had very low expectations. The blurb for the film seemed to suggest that it would fall into the overused stereotype of the Guy-Ritchie-Cockney-Crime film, with a lot of old gangsters in flat caps and shots of East London. However, from the minute the film begins, it’s clear that Love has cleverly crafted a British crime movie with a twist. In the opening scenes Love establishes the films uniquely risqué and modern sense of humour, against the backdrop of gritty London crime.

The film seamlessly segues between fast-paced action to comedy to suspense to romance in a way that keeps the audience riveted. Credit is mostly due to the engaging performance of Ray Winstone as Jack Reegan. Winstone plays the leader of the Flying Squad, a special team within the police who operate with the motto that ‘You’ve got to act like a criminal to catch one’, a practice which becomes problematic in the film as they race against time to solve a bank heist and catch a notorious criminal. Further, Ben Drew a.k.a. Plan B proves himself to be more than just a musician struggling to be an actor, as he delivers his portrayal of a former criminal who is now a police officer with a striking sincerity.

Whilst fans of the original TV series may be disappointed due to the fact that film bears little resemblance to the TV show, Love’s choice to modernise the show whilst incorporating elements from the original theme prevents the film from falling into the category of films and TV shows that should have never been remade (Fame, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Italian Job etc.). The film still has all of the violence and excitement of the original show, but Love chooses to update the series, basing the team in stylish corporate offices in Central London, rather than a local police office. Love’s characters are driving pimped out Range Rovers, not Ford Cortinas, which just make the film feel more authentic. This is also seen in Ray Winstone’s portrayal of Jack Reegan, a man old school enough to still measure in kilos, but also a modern man of ‘2k12’, living in an apartment that overlooks Canary Wharf, doing shots with his colleagues after work and always keeping an eye on his iPad.

However, the film does have its downfalls. The relationship between Winstone and Hayley Atwell, who plays one of his colleagues, lacks chemistry. Furthermore, at some point it seems as though Love has gotten carried away as the violence in the film is so extreme it’s barely believable. It also blurs the line between then heroes and the bad guys, as it becomes apparent that both are equally aggressive. However, when the credits began to roll at the end, I was not left contemplating the unconvincing elements of the film. Instead, I was distinctly impressed as Love has drawn together a charismatic cast and added an interesting soundtrack, breathtaking aerial shots of London and some nail-biting car chases to make a crime film that is sleek, sexy, and exciting, with a distinctly British feel.