21 September 2012


This is how Nick Love actually sees London.
With the news that The Sweeney hit the #1 spot at the UK box office last weekend, I thought it was time to brave Nick Love's latest, a reboot of the popular ITV cop drama. As bad as A Touch Of Cloth, the truly brilliant, Police Squad-style spoof of prime-time police procedural dramas from the minds of Charlie Brooker and Daniel Maier, is going to be for any prime-time police procedural drama that hits the small screen in the near future, it's all the worse for this distinctly uncinematic tosh.

In terms of tone, it's The Sweeney in name only. Flying Squad detectives Jack Regan and George Carter operate an elite team of shouty, corrupt coppers from a preposterously swanky high-rise office, which actually appears to be set in The Apprentice, going by the establishing shots. With their M.O. of acting like criminals to catch criminals, they pretty much come across as criminals, and so they also have internal affairs breathing down their necks. Elsewhere, an old enemy of Regan's is taking the piss, and the Sweeney will stop at nothing to sort him out.

For fear of seeming like I was biased towards this from the start, I should point out that although I hated Nick Love's last remake, The Firm, the director has given me much joy in the past, when he teamed up with his star, Danny Dyer, for a DVD commentary on their film, Outlaw. While it's not worth buying the DVD for that alone, the highlights are bitterly hilarious. But it would be remiss of me to pretend that I was looking forward to it, when every single bit of promotion for the film made me either cringe or sigh. It doesn't mean that I went in wanting to dislike it, or even to slate it afterwards- if anything, you'd think my low expectations could be surpassed.

In that respect, at least, my expectations were surpassed, only just. It's not as vile as some of Love's other cinematic rants, instead placing the action into a context where only uptight suits are wringing their hands about the excessive force deployed by Regan and Carter. Had the film been set in the 1970s, like the original, it might even have been a good movie. Certainly, Life On Mars has demonstrated an appetite for period police dramas with a bit of bite, but as that commentary demonstrates, Love thinks he's making right-wing movies about modern Britain that actually matter. Paradoxically, that means the film has more in common with The Dark Knight than Life On Mars, or the source material.

The honking score and repeated Apprentice-esque establishing shots of the city are clearly reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's films, but not as evocative as anything from those films. The Sweeney is full of faux-macho bravado that seemingly aims to show that Britain can do a mediocre action thriller just as well as the Americans, when this particular filmmaker patently can't. The budget has had two-thirds hacked out of it since it was announced in 2008, and so the finished product cost around £3m, but that's still more than the ITV prime-time dramas that this most closely resembles. Even the opening title sequence seems designed for bumpers on either side of an ad break.

Although the locations speak highly for the production value, its lack of believability means that it might easily have been filmed in classrooms around a Performing Arts college. Huge, sexy-looking offices don't look like police stations. Similarly, you can't have an action sequence in Trafalgar Square if it's going to look as empty as it does in this film's pivotal action sequence. Hell, Love can't even shoot a child's sports day without setting it on a running track that's overlooked by a balcony and an office block. Maybe it's meant to be sold abroad, to an audience that might be persuaded that London is so very modern and Gotham-esque, but on home turf, it feels insurmountably phoney.

As the performances go, Ray Winstone is able to class things up as Regan, with a tough and weary turn that elevates some of the more risible parts of the script, but can't disguise the lack of chemistry with Ben "Plan B" Drew, playing his BFF, Carter, and Hayley Atwell, playing his lover, Nancy. Drew, who only excels in his scowling and cheekiness by the virtue of not being Danny Dyer, doesn't really match up to Winstone when they're together, and simply isn't interesting enough when they're not. I'm particularly disappointed with Atwell, who was superb in Captain America, in a spunky female role who wasn't exclusively defined by shagging Ray Winstone. Repeatedly.

The Sweeney could only really have been made by a director who's new to Britain, or a British director who pumps themselves up to try and one-up the macho-ness of rote American crime movies. With the latter in mind, it's unsurprising that Nick Love should be the one who brought it to the screen. It's obviously doing better at the box office than any of his other films, but it's coasting on brand recognition, and it's a wasted reboot, pumped up full of its own delusions of grandeur and a dated sense of bravado. Put simply, it don't wanna fink.

The Sweeney is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Sweeney, why not share your comments below? What about Nick Love's next film? I'm hoping for a deathly serious version of Thunderbirds, where International Rescue are required to sort out East London, starring Sean Bean and Rizzle Kicks.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

NerdyRachelMay said...

Harsh Mark!
You didn’t like the bit with George in the Taxi Office being all threatening and hoddie and shiz????
You best hope he doesn’t read this or he’ll nut you in your “fackin’ canister!”