The 1970s tv series The Sweeney is a part of my childhood (the music at the end was like a dreadful dirge that signalled bedtime and another day at school sadly looming). At the time The Sweeney seemed a very raw, gritty police drama in which, alarmingly, the criminals sometimes triumphed. I guess if I watched an episode today it might seem quite tame, but this movie version didn’t really ‘feel’ like that show I remember. It seems too slick, too polished somehow. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but the 1970s were pretty grim and the show reflected that, whereas this movie version feels just a little too polished and clean- no doubt reflective of how London has changed (much like comparing the 1970s New York of Taxi Driver to the city of the modern day). It also all too clearly shows the influence of tv shows like The Shield and films like Heat, particularly the latter, as it features a shootout and pursuit on the streets of London very reminiscent of the one featured in Mann’s opus. In this one bullets fly everywhere but no-one seems to get hurt other than a few civilians (the cops might as well be stormtroopers out of Star Wars for all the good they are at shooting down the three bad guys). Indeed this film feels more The Shield and Heat than it ever does The Sweeney, like its having some kind of identity crisis. Rather more ill-judged is the score, which seemed to have been transplanted directly from Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Its fine but overly familiar, as if thats the kind of Hans Zimmer-inspired muzak that is expected in films today; frequently it just feels odd and out of place and robs the film of any real identity of its own.
The film has a few other problems. Ray Winstone’s Jack Regan is an utter bastard- its hard to empathise with a ‘hero’ so terribly flawed. He’s corrupt for one thing, stealing away evidence/money from a crime scene at one moment and then shagging the wife of one of his superiors the next (the age difference and lack of chemistry between the oafish Winstone and the bombshell Hayley Atwell is also an issue the actors never surmount). At odds with authority figures Regan is portrayed as a dinosaur doomed in the modern police force, but whilst in some films, like the Dirty Harry series for instance, we might root for our hero, in this one such empathy seems impossible. WInstone is perhaps too successful at being a complete bastard; likely its not his fault, he’s perhaps just too efficient at the character. He just needs reigning in; it needed a more delicate touch or something in the script to open up his character- an error of judgement of the director perhaps.