Having grown up around London and the south-east of England, I have no trouble with the accents. People from anywhere outside the UK may want to put the subtitles on, as it all gets very Cockney very quickly. Historical note: ‘Sweeney’ comes from rhyming slang Sweeney Todd – Flying Squad – a kind of UK rapid-reaction outfit dealing with large-scale robberies, who are frequently armed. Unfortunately for me, I also grew up with the original Sweeney on the telly and I don’t really think the film made the transition into the 21st century that well. It’s all very well chasing around London in cars, having ‘casual sex’ at the top of your CV and generally making things go ‘bang’, but the original was more than that.
Gone are the days of rugged coppers in leather jackets driving some very fancy hardware around, roughing up suspects and rounding up the usual suspects. There are no brassy blondes, cheap smokes and bottles of Johnnie Walker stashed in filing cabinets. If anything, the attempt to polish the grain off and to make it more, well, Hollywood has left it more than a little flat. Ray Winstone as DI Reagan and Ben Drew as DC Carter are barely believable – a real shame as I am a huge fan of Winstone’s. Perhaps his now infamous tax-dodging took its toll and he needed to rustle up some cash, pronto.
Whatever the reason, the whole thing’s a bit of a mess really. The level of police brutality, of which it’s been said that it’s ‘unbelievable’ is not what spoils it for me – besides, I have my own theories about that. No, the veneer is what spoils it. Winstone and Drew both try very hard to make their hardened cop and poacher-turned-gamekeeper roles succeed but a weak script and some only very so-so camerawork make it an uphill struggle. It’s evident the producers didn’t think the script was up to the mark, as they relied on bigger US box-office draws to shore up the cast. Alan Ford (Bricktop from Snatch (2000)) and Damian Lewis (TV series Homeland) are well known to American audiences, but really don’t add anything o the film. Not their fault, of course.
Long story short, it’s not the worst thing ever. It suffices as a way to pass an hour and 50 minutes and is undemanding if unbelievable in parts. Watch it for the car chases and shootouts, but this ain’t no Shakespeare.