Fans of the hit 70s TV series have no fear: Director-writer Nick Love has taken the heart and soul of the iconic characters, Regan and Carter, and given them a cosmetic 2012 facelift, thrusting the chauvinistic, hard-nosed coppers into a contemporary, clinical crime-fighting environment, complete with latter-day baddies. In fact, Love is wise not to try and replicate what made the TV series so popular in any way (as others have unsuccessfully done), instead putting his own unique and ever-comical deadpan ‘hard boys’ stamp on this project, but with subtler effect.
For those unfamiliar with ‘the lads’, this film version centres on the jaded older character Regan, played by Brit pit-bull Ray Winstone. Detective Regan and his team of hardened Flying Squad coppers of London’s Met police force are set up to take a fall with tragic consequences. Pursued by Internal Affairs at the same time, Regan makes it his personal mission to put wrongs rights, by any means possible.
Four words aptly describe The Sweeney 2012: big, brash, ballsy fun. It’s a Winstone mecca for fans to witness their idol in all his former hard-man glory – complete with a damaged and sinister edge to his Regan that keeps things nice and spicy. Winstone is utterly brilliant, shockingly hilarious and totally in his element, like a warm, welcome déjà vu rush return to his Sexy Beast days. He plays Regan, warts and all, making you empathise immediately with this crime-fighting ‘dinosaur’ as he stomps around trying to defend his territory in an ever-changing underworld.
Keeping the proceedings contemporary and attractive for younger viewers – and potentially growing a new fan base for the franchise, Love pairs up Winstone with multi-talented Ben Drew (aka rapper Plan-B) who made his directorial film debut with Ill Manors this year. Winstone’s hothead antics in the film rifts off Drew’s composed Carter, making a convincing on-screen double act. However, those expecting the blunt charm of the former TV duo may come away a tad disappoint, as Regan’s more of a one-man demolition derby in this, until he needs help from his sidekick, accumulating in the nail-biting action scene through a caravan site to top all the others.
No words are frittered in the script from co-writers Love and John Hodge who take the essence of the Ian Kennedy Martin source material to deliver the hilarious one-liners, telling it how it is in the most crass language in parts that brings a wicked smile to the face and a good belly laugh: Take the private bank scene where Regan and Carter come across a pompous bank manager, or the fabulous comment from informer ‘Arry (Alan Ford) at certain ladies’ lack of class. It’s these gems that will keep fans amused and appeased, though you could do with more.
This is an all-guns-blazing crime romp that tears up the capital – and neighbouring counties, complete with action, danger and glamour (supplied by Hayley Atwell as smart-talking copper Nancy). With its highly convincing turn by the ever-chilling and captivating Paul Anderson as lead gangster Allen, who toys with Regan more than any other perp ever managed to in the TV version, Love smoothly blends what fans love about modern-day action crime dramas with the old-fashioned Sweeney charm. The result is a pure tonic.