Based on the 1970s TV show, the title refers to the flying squad of the London Metropolitan police (also known as the Sweeney Todd in cockney rhyming slang). The film follows Jack Regan and his team as they investigate a jewellery heist and murder. At the same time the squad themselves are under investigation due to the unusually high amount of collateral damage left in their wake. This is mainly the result of the Sweeney’s unorthodox methods of apprehending and questioning suspects, which usually involves a lot of intimidation, extreme force and brutality.
Although the film is named after the squad, the majority of the Sweeney fade into the background and disappear completely by the final act. Instead, Regan is the focus of the film, with his protégé, George Carter (Ben Drew), and love interest, Nancy Lewis (Hayley Atwell), as his supporting cast. Ray Winstone, known for playing tough guy roles, portrays Regan’s excessively aggressive and violent nature well. However, Regan’s character may be the one thing about the original concept that does not translate to the setting of present day London. His tendency to favour brute force over intelligent planning makes him come across as bit of a dinosaur in a world of high tech surveillance and forensic investigation.
A key drawback to having a lead character whose chief emotion is anger is that it leaves little room for character development. Attempts to show more rounded aspects of Regan’s character, such as his Regan’s relationship with Lewis, are unconvincing at best. As a result the emotionally charged atmosphere one would expect in the final chase scene is completely absent.
As a cop movie a lack of a well developed main character could be over looked as the action scenes can take precedence, however even they fail to impress. The film is peppered with fight scenes, but the tension is rarely strong enough for to feel any real danger for the characters. Only when Regan’s protégé, George Carter, takes on a group drug dealers single handed, do the odds seem to be overwhelming enough to cause any apprehension. This, along with shoot outs that go on far too long and relatively tame chase scenes, even the grand finale, makes THE SWEENEY fall short on the action front and leaves little else to recommend about the film.
The Sweeney is in cinemas 12 September 2012. [Watch the trailer]