By Debra (UK)
There is always an inherent danger in bringing to the big screen something that was once a popular TV show, and especially when that same show includes two of UK acting’s “favourite sons”. Both the immensely talented John Thaw and Denis Waterman must have amassed quite a following not just because of The Sweeney TV programme, but individually through the various other TV successes they have each contributed to.
However, popularity can only take a film so far, and Nick Love put together a very credible, fresh and contemporary storyline to capture both those looking for a nostalgic nod to the TV series and the new audience growing up or not born till after the 1970’s. My only critique of Nick Love’s storyline is that it could have gone just a little further at the end of the film, which leaves a few untidy loose ends, which does impact on the film and the audience’s enjoyment, although this could have been to pave the way for a sequel.
The ever dependable Ray Winstone puts in a solid performance based on his own interpretation of Jack Reagan. Quite possibly another actor might have tried to imitate John Thaw’s idea of the part, but very wisely Ray Winstone carefully avoids this pitfall, and he makes the role wholly his own.
Ben Drew falls into the category of new audience who were not born when the TV series originally aired. Although he is relatively new to acting, he also seems to have avoided imitating Denis Waterman’s original concept of the character of George Carter. In doing so, he has given the role an edginess that assists in giving the film its contemporary feel.
Damian Lewis, as Sweeney Chief does a reasonable job but having seen him in a number of other roles, I was left slightly disappointed. Perhaps the script restricted him in this role. Maybe the role was only intended to be part of the supporting cast. I would qualify this by saying that whenever Damian Lewis appears on the cast list of anything, I always sit up and look forward to his performance, so it is with immense regret that I make the observation that this performance seemed somewhat.
The film’s secret weapon without a doubt is Steven Mackintosh. He is brilliant as the understated Chief Inspector Lewis. I would not like to think of this role as a potential career-best, because having seen Steven Mackintosh in this role (I usually put him into the “solid supporting actor” class), I now really want to see him in something that will again stretch his acting talent. The only critique relates back to Nick Love’s storyline, and it is in relation to Steven Mackintosh’s character where I feel there were a few loose ends. If the conclusion could have been tidied up and properly finished, the Chief Inspector Lewis character could have been more fully rounded and the film as a whole would have been much improved. Perhaps, as I mentioned earlier, this was done with the potential for a sequel in mind.
Otherwise, the tempo is kept sharp and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat. The edgy, moody atmosphere perfectly reflects the film’s subject-matter and the remaining cast members do a superb job of supporting the main characters. The script is fresh and although it pays a subtle homage to the original series, the dialogue is fresh, sharp and contemporary and avoids any of the original series’ stock phrases and avoids “dating” the film to the 1970’s. There is enough action to keep the audience watching and all of the foregoing mean the film is fast-paced and unpredictable.
The film is generally very well executed, with a modern feel. The only disappointment that the close of the film stops short of fully concluding the story. If it had gone just a little further, the film would have been better and the audience’s enjoyment of it would have been similarly improved.