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Sweeney! Sweeney!


The Sweeney
(2012)

Due to the involvement of Nick Love, director of all those terrible Danny Dyer movies, I had this written off from the start. But then some reviews appeared saying it wasn’t too bad, actually. Well, it is bad. Love directs in an “I’d really like this to be Heat but I’m barely competent” manner (most evident in a shoot-out amidst London landmarks, the criminal gang all wearing face masks, and the choice of score) but the script stinks, the dialogue stinks and several of the key performances stink. I can only assume that John Hodge contributed the main plot twist; otherwise his co-writing credit is mystifying.

Apparently Dyer was down to play George Carter, but those pesky American backers nixed it, rightly noting that no one knows who he is (and those who do wish they didn’t). Unfortunately, his replacement Ben Drew (Plan B) is dreadful. Viewers are treated to a version of Carter as a mumbling, charisma-free oik who never one convinces as someone who went through police training. Ray Winstone, as Jack Regan, is only better by dint of being able to act. But he sleepwalks through the Ray Winstone routine we’ve seen so many times before, saddled with an utterly unsympathetic character who mystifies us as to why any confidence is placed his bull-in-a-china-shop attitude to every aspect of his investigations.

I presume we’re supposed to boo and hiss whenever Internal Affairs (not the PCC, then?) nemesis Steven Mackintosh appears (Winstone’s banging his wife; take that, pen-pusher, stopping a hard-working copper from getting all the slags!). But his character has a point; Regan is bent (something not really dwelt upon) and his judgement on his investigations is highly questionable. And Mackintosh gives a really good performance; he’s been typecast of late – as here – as nervous, untrustworthy types, which is a shame. Any scene between him and Winstone, eyes are on Mackintosh while Winstone rants and blusters away. Paul Anderson (Sebastian Moran in the second Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes film) also makes a strong impression as the haughty bank robber the Flying Squad focus their attention on. The other solid performance comes from Damian Lewis as Regan’s long-suffering boss. It’s another exercise in restraint while the ostensible leads make a hash of things.

But this is a Nick Love film, a man-boy who has based his career on offences to cinema. His idea of showing us the dedication of this unit is having them down the pub yelling “Sweeney! Sweeney!” in unison. And calling each other c***s. But anyone wishing for a real insight into his auteurship can check out DVD commentary highlights between him and Danny Dyer on youtube. 

*1/2

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