The Sweeney (15)
There is much wish fulfilment in The Sweeney, writer/director Nick Love’s 21st century reboot of what was a low-fi ‘70s TV show that relied heavily on the charisma of John Thaw’s Jack Regan.
Love goes for a US-style melange of car chases, guns and visuals. It’s not the Sweeney we remember. He’s swapped grit and grunge for clean lines, fashion show leather jackets, skyscrapers and shiny motors. All of the geezer business of the series has gone, morphed into a cut-price Miami Vice duplicate. Low concept becomes high concept, and all on a budget of £2 million.
Think Cool Britannia for the new generation. It also must represent what Love hopes will be his passport to a career in the American market: a wannabe Stateside thriller that aims to prove that we Brits can do it as well as the Yanks.
Ray Winstone and Ben Drew are Regan and Carter. Regan is the grizzled old veteran who bends the law to enforce it. Carter is the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who’s enjoyed a flawless career but might sacrifice it all by teaming up with Regan in the Flying Squad.
Together they head up an investigation into an execution-style shooting during an armed robbery. Love’s script, co-written by Trainspotting scribe John Hodge, spins off into myriad different directions but incorporates some flashy setpiece sequences as well as an unlikely romance between Regan and Hayley Atwell.
Love creates nicely tense moments including a pursuit through a darkened car park with Winstone and Atwell scouring the gloom. By far the best is a shoot-out across Trafalgar Square with London echoing to the clatter of automatic fire.
It doesn’t matter that it’s straight out of Michael Mann’s Heat. And it doesn’t matter that no-one ever changes a magazine. What matters is that Love has proved that London can provide an authentic backdrop for believable action.
A modest thriller, The Sweeney is built on Winstone’s bull-like star power and the appeal of Drew. He’s a mumbler, and thus less effective. But they enjoy a chemistry that fuels the dynamic and suggests that a sequel might well happen.