Though Ray Winstone has been a TV star in Great Britain since the mid-1970s, a lot of Americans got their first sighting of the beefy British actor with Gary Oldman’s 1997’s “Nil By Mouth” or 2000’s “Sexy Beast.”
Since then, he’s created a small niche for himself in American films playing thugs, gangsters and other unsavory types – but always with an intelligence and wit that makes his characterizations unexpected, in films from “The Departed” to “Edge of Darkness.”
He’s perfectly cast in “The Sweeney,” playing Detective Inspector Nick Regan, leader of the London Metro Police flying squad, which is nicknamed “The Sweeney” (after an obscure bit of Cockney rhyming slang). Perhaps ringleader is the better word.
Make no mistake – he’s a dedicated cop, but also one who’s looking out for Numero Uno. So when his crew makes a bust involving a quantity of small gold bars, the number that get turned in for evidence is slightly smaller than the number they collected – because Regan has pocketed a couple, which he turns into cash (though it’s not necessarily out of self-interest).
His merry band isn’t above rolling up on a target brandishing baseball bats and axe handles. They’re less interested in scientific crime detection (though they can do that, too) than in the whup-ass side of law enforcement; there’s a very ’70s, “Walking Tall” feel to this cinematic portrayal of police work.
But the Sweeney finds itself besieged from all sides when it takes on a case involving a bank robbery in which a bystander is summarily executed. Even as Regan spurs his crew on to figure out why – and how to foil the bank-robbing team’s next job – he’s also fighting a rearguard action against the police internal-affairs investigator, Lewis (Steven Mackintosh). Lewis is convinced that, if he just pushes and digs hard enough, he will uncover the evidence he needs to take Regan down – although he hasn’t noticed that his wife is sleeping with Regan.
Plotwise, there’s not a lot of heavy-lifting here.
This review continues on my website.