Starting in 1975, British fans of ‘realistic’ police drama on television would tune in to ITV to watch The Sweeney. It was the first such show in the UK that showed police officers as being human and fallible. After its initial four season run, it continued in reruns well into the 1980s. Now that television series has been updated and brought to the big screen by writer/director Nick Love.
Starring Ray Winstone as the iconic “Jack Regan” and Ben Drew as “George Carter”, The Sweeney is about a team of detectives from the so-called Flying Squad of London’s Metropolitan Police. They’re called that because they observe none of the borough policing lines of demarcation. They chase the worst criminals and make the big cases. Their boss, “Frank Haskins” (Damian Lewis) overlooks Regan’s methods because he produces results.
Until Regan and Carter, along with the rest of their squad get into a shootout with thugs trying to steal a load of gold bars. All of the thieves are arrested without serious injury to any of the squad, but some of the bars wind up missing. “Ivan Lewis” from Internal Affairs suspects Regan of taking the bars and oh yes, sleeping with his wife “Nancy” (Haley Atwell) who happens to be a member of Regan’s squad.
The investigation by Lewis is of little interest to Regan, who has his mind wrapped around an informant’s tip about an upcoming robbery of millions in cash at a private bank. Surveillance is established on the bank but has to be pulled to deal with the armed robbery of a jewelry store where an innocent bystander is killed execution style by the robbers. Regan suspect “Francis Allen” (Paul Anderson) who he has dealt with before, but he has a solid alibi. He was out of the country and his passport scanned elsewhere at the time of the robbery. Now Regan is suspended and has to get Carter to help him try to clear his name.
Winstone, who actually appeared briefly in an episode of the original series when he was in his late teens, was perfectly cast as Jack Regan. Tough, unflinching and totally committed to catching bad guys, while he lives with his own imperfect ethical actions. Once he sets his sights on a bad guy, nothing will stop him from ‘nicking’ him. Drew hits the right notes as Carter, the family man who has his sights set on a successful career and must choose between making sure he achieves those goals, or puts them at risk by helping the man who lifted him up to a chance at a better life.
The action and violence hits just the right tone, brutal and to the point without being overly grotesque. Love and co-writer John Hodge the audience a plot that is plausible and does not require any suspension of disbelief. Authentic dialogue and good acting throughout the cast work together to keep a firm grasp on the viewer’s attention.