The Sweeney Blu-ray Review
THE SWEENEY, a nickname for the London based “The Flying Squad” (because in cockney, it rhymes with Sweeney Todd), is a new UK film released to Blu-ray. The Flying Squad are the armed task force who deal with especially violent crimes within London, immortalized for many a Brit during the iconic 70’s television show. The problem is the new film tries very hard to be both true to the original television show while being dark and interesting for a new generation. While there are some strong performances, I’m not entirely sure they succeeded in their quest.
THE SWEENEY shoots out of the starting block with a bang. We see two groups of men, both of which appear to be discussing a heist. The ambiguity of the discussion leads us to wonder what is going to happen, but our questions are soon answered as The Sweeney descend on unprepared criminals with both semi-automatics and baseball bats. These aren’t your grandmother’s Bobbies. You get the feeling right from the start the Sweeney have probably crossed some lines, lines that change you into the very people you are pursuing…
This, in and of itself, is enough depth for the film. Sadly, we get a lot of ‘other’ background drama, simple types like adultery and family dynamics. These don’t play nearly as well as the action sequences, though they are written fairly well. Starring Ray Winstone (SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, 2012) as Regan, the leader of the Sweeney and Ben Drew aka Plan B, a Brit-pop star, THE SWEENEY does well showing the tortured souls of those who, with regularity, fight the most violent of criminals. Winstone and Drew are cut from the same cloth though their characters are considerably different in motivation and purpose; their casting was inspired.
Joining them is Hayley Atwell, who you’ll most likely remember from her small role in 2011’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Atwell plays Nancy, a member of the Sweeney who has fallen for Regan even though she’s (unhappily) married to an internal affairs officer. Strangely, this particular internal affairs officer has been watching the Sweeney for some time and, during the course of THE SWEENEY, ups the stakes and begins a full formal investigation of Regan and Co.
This is the first of quite a few problems with THE SWEENEY. Too much time, especially in the second act, is spent on trite conflict intended to add depth to the story that falls short. The character development of Regan and Carter (Drew) is nice but neither story gets quite enough attention to really mean anything to us as viewers. In the end there are simply too many nods to the original show and too little real, meaningful conflict. If you are someone who watched and enjoyed the original you’ll probably enjoy this. If not, there are elements to enjoy but the movie as a whole is just subpar.
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The video is appropriately gritty but also has some very nice qualities. THE SWEENEY does a great job taking advantage of your HD television and really puts you in the middle of the action.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Audio for THE SWEENEY may not seem very important, but this is a dialogue heavy action flick and the audio is well suited to the task.
Audio Commentary with writer/director Nick Love and various producers never properly identified This is a very good audio commentary though I wish, due to the accents, they had included subtitles of the commentary. There are quite a few interesting tidbits here, but for those of us in the USA they are hard to make out. The participants talk over each other, and talk each other up quite a bit, but there are still some good moments here if you can stomach the rest. It would have been nice, though, if Mr. Love would stop talking about his limited budget and revised shooting schedule. Be proud of your work, you don’t have to make excuses over and over (and over, and over, and over…).
Behind the Scenes of THE SWEENEY (25:49) The cast and crew discuss working on the film. Nick Love talks about how long he’s been working to bring THE SWEENEY to the large screen (5 years) and the intense pressure to ensure the chemistry and action matched people’s expectations. This is an incredibly in-depth look at the film, highly recommended for anyone who enjoys THE SWEENEY.
Preparing THE SWEENEY (15:05) The featurette focuses on the development period, the writing and re-writing, the casting process, and putting all of the pieces together so THE SWEENEY would work for fans and for new generations. Part of the problem, featured here as the solution to the film.
Shooting in Trafalgar Square (15:18) THE SWEENEY features a phenomenal, long foot chase through one of the epic London locations. This reminded me a lot of HEAT and in a good way.
The New Regan and Carter (04:19) Winstone and Drew talk about their roles, with writer/director Nick Love providing some additional detail. They are easily the strongest moments of THE SWEENEY, if only they had done as nice a job on the rest of the flick.
On the Shooting Range (04:32) Cast and crew spent some time on the shooting range together to train and bond while putting together The Flying Squad for THE SWEENEY. Familiarity with weapons is important in any film featuring a lot of gunplay, and THE SWEENEY did a nice job with these actors.
Top Gear and the Caravan Park (08:34) The crew from Top Gear (a BBC television show) stopped by and helped THE SWEENEY film crew with the final chase sequence. Very cool for any fans of either show.
Animated Storyboard – Trafalgar Square (02:26) Featuring voiceover from Love, there are a few interesting tidbits featured here.
Animated Storyboard – The Caravan Park (01:57) Another feature that would have been boring if not for the little facts about filmmaking and the process from storyboard to final product.