DIRECTOR: Nick Love
May contain spoilers!
Over the years I would watch BBC’s Top Gear programme and say “Why is it that we can have a car show filming cars and making them so cool and yet British drama often looks so dull! Well, it appears that someone else had the same idea and in 2012, Top Gear and a British cop movie collaborated to produce what is a half decent car chase in a British movie.
But the point is that the whole film looks great. Set in London, it feels like the perfect combination of a gritty cockney crime thriller and a Hollywood actioner and it is about time! This glossy reboot of the 1970’s ITV police drama show, The Sweeney which starred the late John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, has been updated with Ray Winstone in the lead role, delivering a typically hard yet enjoyable performance, whilst his partner Ben Drew, aka Plan B, certainly brings something in the form of charisma to the role, but as for acting clout, we are left sorely wanting.
The plot is simple, violent jewel heists, hardened cops who cannot seem to understand where the lines are drawn and car chases and shoot outs through London. But there is no doubt that this strikes the right tone for a 2012 reboot of a hardened 70’s show. It is clearly a glossy, extravagant production, compared to the gritty original but why not take on the material with a fresh perspective? Even though The Sweeney are sleeping in luxurious hotels and working out of an ‘iOffice’ over-looking the London skyline, when this diverse team hit the streets it is a violent and dark world.
Personally I am one of those people who thinks that if you liked The Sweeney (1970’s) then watch The Sweeney (1970’s) as it was in its heyday, but if you like The Sweeney (1970’s) but would also like to see something inspired by it rather than a retread, then watch the original and try this interpretation too. No, this is not Thaw, Waterman and a series of car chases across a slew of muddy builders yards; this is a modern take on a form of policing that should have bitten the dust along time ago and it is here that film flounders the most.
I gather that there was some debate in the early days of development as to whether this was going to be a period piece set in the 70’s or the modern setting which it eventually became and it is clear to me that a lot of the early drafts are present in this script. The tone is very 1970’s and it does feel a little odd that this “Flying Squad” would be allowed to operate like this in the 21st century without any real explanation.
And it is issues like that which I believe have counted against it in other reviews and the audience response which is mixed but personally I liked this from opening scene. I found the tone and style to be vibrant but it has to be said that I am not a huge fan of gritty British drama so I can understand that what I liked about this may well put a lot of its target audience off.
You can’t win em all…