Based on the popular British 1970s crime drama of the same name, Nick Love’s The Sweeney details the exploits of the titular Flying Team, a special force of all-or-nothing police officers led by Detective-Inspector Regan (Ray Winstone) and his protégé, Detective-Constable Carter (Ben “Plan B” Drew). Centered largely around the execution of a single customer during a jewelry-store robbery and Regan’s corrupt behavior, which includes his stealing of evidence and affair with his married colleague, Detective-Constable Lewis (Hayley Atwell), the film leans heavily on Winstone’s long used-up appeal as a powerful, angry gruff, an avatar for England’s tough, sardonic lower-middle class. In The Sweeney, however, this attitude is at once unchallenged and under-defined, making for a policier that’s all grimace with no true menace.
Of course, the execution of the customer eventually reveals a darker truth to the crime, putting Regan and his team up against a ruthless, masterful criminal, Francis Allen (Paul Anderson), who makes the mistake of murdering Regan’s trusted colleague and lover, Detective-Constable Lewis (Hayley Atwell), just as she was about to leave her husband, Detective Chief Inspector Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), for him. Beset on all sides, Regan must also deal with DCI Lewis’s wrath, his own subsequent incarceration, and a tight-assed boss-man (Damian Lewis). It’s certainly a busy dance card, but the constant activity has no weight, moral or experiential, and is only intermittently followed through on. Clichés abound, even in the look of the film, which toggles between post-Ritchie crime-violence burlesque and sleek, Nolanesque faux-grandeur.
With its proverbial tongue utterly incapable of locating cheek, The Sweeney trades in thoughtless, thuggish posturing, notable only for an involving-enough Heat-meets-Point Break heist centerpiece. And Drew, a dismayingly limp screen presence, benefits from being the settled-down right-hand man to Regan and the new look of rogue-cop righteousness, only hesitantly discouraged by the film’s ho-hum ending. As the film plays more like an extended pilot of a series reboot, the very release of The Sweeney feels discernably like a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot career move for the rapper rather than a genuine expression of his much-touted movie love. Even as a promotional tool, however, Love’s film is a colossal failure, in that it evaporates from memory long before the light of the theater lobby hits your eyes.