Movie Review: The Sweeney

By Matthew Huntley

February 11, 2013

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The Sweeney is a typical crime story movie forged by filmmakers who’ve likely seen one too many crime story movies. They know the genre so well, in fact, the movie ends up being just that: generic. It contains its fair share of pumped up action, emotional substance and characters that are more likable than developed, but in the end, there’s not a whole lot to say about it other than it’s not bad. Unfortunately, that’s not the same as saying it’s good.

This is a shame, too, because from its opening act to when the plot officially kicks in, The Sweeney has a decent hold on us. It’s around the halfway mark, when everything is in place, that the movie loses its grip and begins to run out of steam. It’s as if the filmmakers assumed it could simply cruise along on genre standards and no longer had to be original. By the end, I envisioned them holding a “crime drama” checklist and systematically going down it until they covered everything. Too bad they didn’t add their own checks, particularly new ones.

The film focuses on a specialized unit of the London Metropolitan Police Service called “the Flying Squad,” so named because it has the authority to operate anywhere within the city without having to observe usual district boundaries. The Sweeney, in turn, is slang for the Flying Squad (named after the character Sweeney Todd in the eponymous musical), and the department’s main area of expertise is high-profile robberies.

And indeed it opens with the Sweeney, led by the rough and tough Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), thwarting a half-million dollar gold bar heist in a downtown London warehouse. Jack leads the elite team that includes the young but forceful George Carter (Ben Drew), whose dedication and impeccable record have him on the cusp of a promotion, and Nancy (Hayley Atwell), Jack’s married lover who happens to be the wife of Ivan (Steven Mackintosh), an internal affairs officer who’s investigating the Sweeney’s questionable methods. The unit may take down dangerous bad guys and ultimately make London safer, but there have been civil complaints about how they go about their business, including the use of baseball bats against suspects.


Of course, Jack defends himself and his unit, and Ray Winstone being Ray Winstone, makes his character someone you don’t want to argue with, even if he does make crooked deals on the side with a personal informant (Alan Ford). He’s the kind of man who will end you with his bare hands and not give it a second thought.

What does give Jack a second thought is the latest case he and his team are called in to investigate. Shortly after he and George survey the safety of a private bank in Trafalgar Square, three armed men rob a comparatively low-end jewelry store nearby. Before they make off with the merchandise, however, they inexplicably kill one of the customers, a 20-something female. The pieces don’t add up since the woman was unarmed and the robbers had supposedly already got what they came for. Why off her, and for just a couple hundred thousand dollars’ worth of jewelry?

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