3 stars: Adequate action adaptation
If you hadn’t got it from the title, then from the opening raid by a London police unit on an armed robbery in progress, it is entirely clear what we are getting with The Sweeney. This is a tough, bend the rules to breaking, super cop unit who work hard, play hard and exist slightly above the law in order to make it work.
The premise has been escalated to cinema size without pausing to see what it adds.
They are lead by Ray Winstone’s Jack Regan, a dinosaur cop from a different era, open to sex with married colleagues and skimming loot from robberies, yet possessed of a strong moral code. He is, of course, under investigation from Internal Affairs. He is, of course, destined to slip up. And he is, of course, going to hurt a lot of foes – and friends – in the process.
The dinosaur's head ... Ray Winstone in The Sweeney.
This movie is an adaptation of a seventies British TV cop show, and despite the modern cars, offices and mobile phones, it is, like its hero, a dinosaur, though a fossil empowered by steroids in the form of a big screen budget.
The premise has been escalated to cinema size without pausing to see what it adds. The preposterous chase through Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery at the centre of the film feels bloated and banal, rather than adrenalin packed or awe inspiring. Had the film been set in the '70s, then a retro feel and style could have elevated it to something special, instead, and somewhat ironically, it feels stale.
The performances are solid, the plot stands up, but none would be out of place in a 40 minute episode of any of a dozen current TV shows - and they wouldn’t even be remarkable episodes.
Ultimately this is action that can be as adequately experienced at home as it could be in the cinema, and for a film of this nature, there is no greater shame than that.