Despite the shiny Apple computers, despite the casting of Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew, despite the concession to feminism (policewomen can now punch suspects too), Nick Love’s update of the ’70s TV cop show could have been made any time in the past 35 years.
Ray Winstone stars as Jack Regan, head of the London Flying Squad (or ‘Sweeney’), and a man of supremely questionable methods. We first meet him and partner George Carter (Drew) as they take down a suspect with a baseball bat and a pithy, “We’re the Sweeney, shithead. You’re nicked!” It’s no wonder he’s getting investigated by an Internal Affairs bod.
The plot centres on the hunt for not-particularly-hard-to-find safecracker Allen (Paul Anderson), but mostly it’s an excuse for Winstone to go large, whether punching suspects in the canister or leering at his colleague Nancy (Hayley Atwell). Apparently serious but actually beyond parody, The Sweeney is over-long and indifferently plotted, but there’s illicit fun to be had if you buckle up for a bumpy ride.
The action scenes are urgent and efficient (particularly a Heat-seeking shootout across Trafalgar Square), Love’s unafraid to skew dark when required and the combination of Drew’s under-acting and Winstone’s rampant scenery chewing gives their interactions an awkward intensity.
One screeching car chase amounts to little more than a demolition derby in a caravan park: a pretty accurate précis of the film’s bludgeoning appeal. Indeed, the effect can probably be recreated by listening to Plan B while watching YouTube clips of Winstone shouting. You couldn’t do that in the ’70s, mind.