Matt Adcock’s film review: The Sweeney

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“We’re The Sweeney, we do the things that you can only dream about…”

Who do you turn to when armed criminals start murdering innocent people in broad daylight on the streets of London, turning over private banks and jewellers at will and generally flouting the law of the land?

The Metropolitan Police Flying Squad, that’s who. Sweeney? Sweeney Todd, rhyming slang? Oh, come on, it was a big telly hit back in the day and that spawned two films of its own, for heaven’s sake.

This motley band of thief-takers and, in the process, law-breakers or at the very least benders is led by Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), backed up by George Carter (Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew).

They don’t play by the rules – they beat up the bad boys after hunting them down with extreme prejudice and generally taking advantage of any excuse to fire up their souped-up Ford Focus and recklessly speed around the streets of London. As Carter says at one point: “You have to act like a criminal to catch a criminal...”

Director Nick ‘Football Factory’ Love has a knack for bringing over-the-top violence, swearing and macho posturing to the big screen and so this update of the classic ‘70s British cop-em-up fits like a glove.

I can just about remember seeing the original Sweeney with John Thaw in his rougher, tougher pre-Morse days and Dennis Waterman, a lifetime before New Tricks came calling, in the lead roles. Not a great deal has changed.

A high-level crim is on the loose after a daring armed robbery during which an innocent shopper was executed. The Sweeney are soon on his case but all is not as first appears…

Throw into the mix an uptight boss (Damian ‘Homeland’ Lewis), and an angry internal investigator (Steven Mackintosh) who wants to shut the squad down and the combination, if familiar, is explosive.

The plot bends over backwards to accommodate pretty much every cop drama cliché ever seen.

The females in the cast, who include the lovely Hayley Atwell, are mostly there for decoration and emotional plot points – but this doesn’t The Sweeney being a brilliant burst of crunching action fun.

Winstone plays Regan as a more violent Gene ‘Life On Mars’ Hunt while Drew convinces as a chav thug turned good – if you saw him in Harry Brown, then you’ll know what to expect.

It’s stylishly filmed and packs both the best opening sequence of any film this year and an awesome shootout across Leicester Square, which is seriously exciting.

Don’t mug yourself off – go and see The Sweeney.