Review: ‘The Sweeney’ goes on an old-school cops and robbers ride


Don’t look for “The Sweeney” to win any awards. It’s not going to, not even close. But that doesn’t stop it from being a briskly involving British crime entertainment of the old school. You’ve seen the type, and more than once, but the genre still has enough juice to take us for a ride.

A tale of crafty criminals battling it out against tough cops, “The Sweeney” benefits greatly from Ray Winstone ‘s performance as Jack Regan, one of London’s most cantankerous law enforcement professionals.

If you’re familiar with the popular 1970s British TV series of the same name, you know “The Sweeney” is street slang for the London police’s poetically named Flying Squad, a group of hard men who investigate armed robbery and other serious crimes in their own particular way.


“The Sweeney”: In the March 1 Calendar section, a photograph with a review of the film “The Sweeney” was credited to One Entertainment. The company is Entertainment One. —

Those with delicate sensibilities are warned that the Flying Squad very much approves of mayhem. In fact, its members enjoy beating suspects senseless before they’re so much as arrested. These super-violent methods, we are led to believe, are necessary to combat criminals who will stop at nothing (nothing!) to gain their nefarious ends.

Winstone’s Regan, the man the squad calls “guv,” is the leader of the pack in more ways than one. An abrasive, swaggering law unto himself, Det. Regan has nothing but contempt for his desk-bound fellow officers, though he seems to tolerate his own boss, Frank Haskins (“Homeland’s” Damian Lewis going back to his London roots).

So macho he can get away with wearing light tan canvas boots with his black leather jacket, Regan is such a rule-breaker he’s allowed himself to become romantically involved with one of his team, the hard-as-nails Nancy Lewis (Hayley Atwell).

Making matters worse, Nancy is still married (though the relationship is crumbling) to Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), who just happens to be one of those internal affairs sticklers who are always investigating hard cases like Regan because of the belief that his kind of policeman should be extinct. Ouch.

Sticking with Regan through thick and thin is his right-hand person, George Carter (Ben Drew, a.k.a., the rapper Plan B). Carter is a former street tough whom Regan helped get on the straight and narrow, and he’s been grateful ever since.

In point of fact, Carter’s character and accent are so authentic, American audiences will have trouble at times understanding exactly what he and other characters are saying, but the film’s overall good-guys-versus-bad-guys dynamic is much easier to follow.


Once the cast is introduced, “The Sweeney” can go about its business of staging complex robberies and even more elaborate chases and shootouts. Which is why we’re here in the first place.

Director Nick Love (who also co-wrote the script with “Trainspotting’s” John Hodge) has a flair for bringing energy and pizazz to traditional cops and robbers stuff, and he’s not shy about showing us how it’s done.

So “The Sweeney” opens with a double-header, an elaborate armed robbery staged by a masked gang followed immediately by the Sweeney crashing this criminal party and bashing a few heads in the process.

In between having passionate clandestine sex with Nancy and fending off the bureaucratic advances of her husband, Regan still finds time to investigate crimes. He’s called in on a seemingly routine robbery at a jewelry store because the bandits, for no apparent reason, murder a female customer just before they exit the shop. Is this just random craziness, or was there method to their madness?

Before Regan’s investigation is over, it will involve him with an old nemesis, a vulnerable and prosperous private bank, and several wild chase scenes, including one through the National Gallery that includes shooting up a room full of old and rare books. For the bibliophiles in the audience, that is going to hurt.


‘The Sweeney’

MPAA rating: R, for violence and language throughout and some sexual conduct

Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

Playing: Chinese 6, Hollywood; AMC 30 at the Block, Orange


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