DVD Review: The Sweeney

The Sweeney is a British crime drama based on a 1970s British TV show by the same name. Having never seen the show, I’ll simply base it on its own merits as a film and not worry about any comparisons (though I hear they’re few and far between aside from character names). As it stands, The Sweeney is a decently paced – albeit flawed – thriller that overstays its welcome and never really rises above being average on pretty much all fronts.

The film stars Ray Winstone (Hugo, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) as Jack Regan, a cop who pushes the limits and doesn’t exactly play by the rules. He’s the leader of The Sweeney, a small group of officers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty (or bloody) in order to catch the crooks. After a successful bust, Regan pays off his informant with some gold that he confiscated from the crime scene, which comes back to haunt him when Detective Chief Inspector Ivan Lewis (Steve Mackintosh) shows up saying that some gold was missing, and that he knows the Sweeney are behind it. Regan and Lewis bump heads, though Regan has the upper hand as, unknown to Lewis, Regan is sleeping with Lewis’s wife Nancy (Hayley Atwell) – who is also a member of Regan’s squad.

While that subplot meanders around on the backburner, a robbery takes place which resembles the same calling card of a crook Regan had arrested twice before. This time, however, a young woman was executed during the robbery, which is something that this old foe wasn’t known for. While trying to get to the bottom of the murder case, Regan must also try to stay out of Lewis’s crosshairs; though thanks to Reagan’s bad temper, that’s easier said than done.

As you can probably decipher from the plot’s description, the story is quite generic. It hits a lot of the usual beats, with no real surprises along the way. In fact, it’s fairly easy to predict most of the major plot points long before they take place, and when that begins to happen, you basically find yourself watching just for the sake of watching. That’s not to say it’s bad, as its got a decent pacing to it, which is mainly thanks to its constant musical score that transitions each scene as though something intense or suspenseful is always about to happen. At the same time though, the film is almost two hours in length, and when you begin to realize that the music is just lining up another predictable, mundane scene, it grows old rather fast.

One of the biggest problems the film has is that there are no real established characters for the viewer to care about. Sometimes it’s okay to have basic characters if the events going on around them are the true star; however, for a film like this, you need strong characters leading the way so that viewers can get emotionally involved with the quest at hand. While Winstone is one of the few bright spots that make this film work on any level, Regan is just a cut-and-paste “plays by his own rules” cop, and a rather mediocre one at that. Personally, I’m a sucker for that type of character, but there’s nothing special about Reagan that would make audiences hope he succeeds.

Aside from Regan there’s his second-in-command George Carter (Ben Drew), who is groomed to be the person the viewer wants to see step up and be the hero. The problem is, he’s also an incredibly poorly written character, and his character growth is really ruined by lack of direction, or a real sense of purpose. That goes for the whole Sweeney team, as aside from Reagan, George and Nancy, they pretty much all disappear after the opening scene where they stop a robbery. I mean, they pop up every now and then, but this doesn’t seem like much of an elite force when it comes right down to it.

Their boss is Frank Haskins, played by Homeland star Damian Lewis – who is also as cookie-cutter as they come in terms of character. This guy basically put together the Sweeney to do the tough jobs, but all he does is warn Regan about doing things that could get them in trouble, and all but wipe his hands clean of them when things hit a breaking point. It’s just one more thing that gives off a sense of “been there, done that many times before.”

When it all comes down to it, The Sweeney is an incredibly average movie that hits all the beats you’d expect a film like this to hit. There are no real surprises along the way, and there’s nothing that happens amongst the abundance of clichés that can’t be predicted well in advance if you’ve seen a handful of crime dramas before. Winstone gives a solid performance, as does Mackintosh; though that’s not really enough to recommend this over so many better films that are out there to see.

While the audio transfer isn’t bad, subtitles are almost a requirement for how heavy the accents are in this film. They also use a lot of British slang that North American viewers may have a hard time understanding if it’s not seen in subtitle form. Luckily, they’re not distracting if you’re at all used to reading them, and if you don’t like them, at least be weary of the accents going in. The video transfer is also well done, with no real gripes in terms of how things look visually.

Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Nick Love and his producers talk about the film, with Love constantly talking about how long he’s waited to make this film, and how it’s been a dream of his.

Behind the Scenes of The Sweeney This is a feature that runs just under 26 minutes in length, that’s filled with interviews with cast and crew. The main focus is on writer/director Nick Love, however, as he again explains how long it took him to make this film and things of that nature.

Preparing The Sweeney This featurette comes in at 15 minutes in length and talks more in depth about how long it took to bring the film to life.

Shooting in Trafalgar Square – This featurette runs at just over 15 minutes in length and talks about one of the biggest action scenes in the film and how they got it done.

The New Regan and Carter – This is a four minute featurette that sees Winstone, Love and Drew talk about the characters.

On the Shooting Range – This is a four and a half minute featurette that shows the actors learning how to use various weapons for the film.

Top Gear and the Caravan Park – This is an eight and a half minute featurette that focuses on another big scene in the film – this time it’s a car chase.

Animated Storyboards – There are two animated storyboard featurettes: one of Trafalgar Square, and the other for The Caravan Park.

The Sweeney is a cliché ridden, cut-and-paste crime drama that’s as predictable as it is long. While there are some great actors involved, who give good performances, it’s just not enough to save this from being a film you really only check out when there’s nothing else you want to see and you’re just in the mood for something simple that never seems to strive to be anything more than average.

Vertigo Films presents The Sweeney. Written and Directed by: Nick Love. Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Paul Anderson, Alan Ford, Damian Lewis. Running time: 112 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released: April 2, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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