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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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SWEENEY, THE (2012)

SYNOPSIS:
Legendary Detective Inspector Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) and his loyal partner George Carter (Ben Drew) are old school crime fighters enforcing the law in a modern London underworld. Armed and dangerous, the Flying Squad (Sweeney Todd in rhyming slang, hence The Sweeney) have their own unique - and often questionable - way of operating; however, they always get the results. With a bank heist in progress and his old enemy making a re-appearance on the London crime scene, Regan will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even defying orders from his no nonsense Guv (Damian Lewis).

Review by Louise Keller:
Taking its origins from the top-rated 70s British TV police procedural, this 2012 movie version proves to be a fitting vehicle for tough guy Ray Winstone, who is paired with singer songwriter Ben Drew as a former street crim turned loyal disciple in London's elite Flying Squad, known in Cockney rhyming slang as the Sweeney (Todd).

Gritty and violent, this character-driven drama socks it to us without restraint and we get the distinct impression there's nothing left in the tank by the time the tale is told. Australian audiences may have trouble making out all the dialogue - the Cockney accents are broad and there's a lot of mumbling going on - as the close knit team with a reputation for using heavy handed tactics, set about their business to solve a recent burglary and execution-style murder.
Winstone's dramatic entrance comes in one of the opening scenes, as men in balaclavas and blue overalls are caught in the middle of a robbery. His two burly arms crash through a wall, grabbing the culprit by the throat - and by surprise. We get to meet the rest of the team that forms The Sweeney, at work and at play, and from the lustful looks over the table, we understand that Winstone's top dog Jack Regan is having torrid sex with his shapely colleague Nancy (Hayley Atwell). It so happens that Nancy is married to Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), the thin-lipped detective from Internals, who is commissioned to observe the operation, questioning their baseball bat, pick-axe and taser tactics.

The film takes a while to get going, but when it does, it flies. The plot involves a jewellery store robbery in which a seemingly innocent bystander is shot for no apparent reason. Additionally there's a high stakes robbery in a private clearing bank in Trafalgar Square, with mostly Middle Eastern clients. Allen (Paul Anderson) plays a nasty piece of work, who is the subject of a stake out, followed by a tense interrogation. His luxury yacht, Pegasus, named after the winged horse in Greek mythology, also plays a part. The action sequences in Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery are worthy of note, as are the car chases, which end in spectacular, dramatic fashion.

The best part of the film involves the relationships between Jack and the various characters. There are raunchy moments between Jack and Nancy (she bullies him into going on a diet), bitter ones between Jack and Lewis, deadly and violent hatred between Jack and Allen and best of all is the meaningful camaraderie and loyalty between Jack and George (Drew).

In the end, it's all about justice and going all out to prove it. The famous line 'You're nicked' is used several times, notably after the tense, final action crescendo in which serious squealing of brakes and fire power trigger us into submission. In its genre, it is effective and powerful and delivers to its target market.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) is the Dirty Harry of the London police, working inside the armed hold up or Flying Squad - the Sweeney [Todd] - often at odds with authority and bureaucracy - and always at odds with crims. In the mid 70s the British TV series on which this film is based set a new high standard of gritty realism in police dramas. The franchise (they made 53 TV episodes) can no longer repeat that pioneering result, but the film still pushes the police characters into uncomfortably uncompromising situations, where their violence is indistinguishable from that of the baddies. They also drink a lot and have sex - even with estranged wives of fellow officers.

Director and co-writer Nick Love takes us (lovingly) into their world with great zest, driving the narrative and the character profiling with equal vigour. Winstone is a standout in a role that for once puts him on the right side of the law. But it doesn't make him a nice guy; indeed, he's quite unlikable, which is a remarkably brave approach to a film that is surely intended to be commercial. But Love gets away with it because underneath, Jack Regan's faults are entirely at the service of his determination to 'nick' the crims. He has a very simple moral position which doesn't need to be spoken about in moralistic terms. He's cleaning up the garbage on the streets of London. And he's devilish good at it.

Ben Drew also impresses as his sidekick George Carter, a self redeemed crook who displays as much loyalty as guts. Hayley Atwell plays Nancy, the estranged wife of the head of Internal Affairs, Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh, superb), who is having a serious affair with Jack Regan. Atwell is also one of the Sweeney team, which adds complications - and drama.

The plot is well hatched and cleanly executed, although the cold blooded killing during the jewellery shop robbery - the central crime the Sweeney is hoping to solve - is not fully resolved.

The major shootout in Trafalgar Square is astonishing for both its precision and its extraordinary length, while the climactic car chase is brutal and spectacular, superbly shot and edited. There's not much more we could ask for in a contempo police procedural - except maybe subtitles to overcome the heavy, dense cockney accents.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

SWEENEY, THE (2012) (MA15+)
(UK, 2012)

CAST: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Damian Lewis, Paul Anderson, Allen Leech, Alan Ford, Steven Waddington

PRODUCER: Allan Niblo, Rupert Preston, James Richardson, Christopher Simon, Felix Vossen

DIRECTOR: Nick Love, John Hoges

SCRIPT: Nick Love, John Hodges (source material Ian Kennedy Martin)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Dennis

EDITOR: James Herbert

MUSIC: Lorne Balfe

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Morgan Kennedy

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 14, 2013







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