The Sweeney, directed by Nick Love, 2012, 112 minutes.
British crime dramas are often well done, but that is not the case with this movie knockoff of a popular 1970s television series about an elite London police squad. This is one of the most unintentionally (I think) silly films I have seen in a while. Americans often have trouble understanding lower-class Brit accents, but I was able to decipher the speech of most of the characters. But not the surly, mumbling Cockney slang of the lead, Ray Winstone, supposed head of the elite “flying squad.” Aging and big-bellied, he engages in numerous unlikely physical fights and has a ludicrously improbable affair with the gorgeous Hayley Atwell. Even worse, purportedly a top veteran head of the top squad of a respected police force, he goes off repeatedly on reckless, irresponsible tangents that usually end in failure.
It is well known that the British police operate with severe firearm restrictions. In this film it is never made clear what those are. At times the Sweeneys seem to have pistols, at other times they are chasing down heavily armed felons with baseball bats, non-issue equipment. In most cases an officer with a pistol could quickly and easily subdue the felon without firing a shot. Instead we are treated to ridiculous foot races. car chases, and gunfights across London with unbelievable collateral damage, and that usually fail to “nick” the suspect. Clearly the multicultural New Britain is no longer the society that can function with Bobbies armed only with nightsticks.
On the positive side, the newcomer Ben Drew does a good job as the troubled young officer swept up in Winstone’s capers. And, of course, political correctness is de rigueur. Drew inexplicably has an eight-year old black child, though he is too young for that and has a pregnant white girlfriend. And, it hardly needs mentioning, the irredeemably ruthless villains are Serbian.
Clyde N. Wilson is a contributing editor to Chronicles. A retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina, he is the author of numerous books, including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture. He is the editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.