‘The Sweeney’ Movie Review – Hinging on a Scene
Movies live and die by the three-act structure. The ones that break the mold stick out, but it’s not a necessity to be different. In fact, some just shift the timing of the three acts, spending far less time on the build-up. Action films tend to do this a lot because they care so much about the most epic car crash and/or shoot-out. In the case of Nick Love’s The Sweeney, it is the exact opposite. He spends too much time crafting the story, when the best parts are the action ones. The results are ultimately mixed, but at least it’s the back half of the film that is good.
The Sweeney is based on the 1970’s British TV series of the same name. I’ve unfortunately never seen it, so this is a bit of an outsider’s perspective.
The first act deals a lot with the characters. We get introduced to the main agents (of the infamous Flying Squad), including Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), George Carter (Ben Drew), and Nancy Lewis (Hayley Atwell). The Flying Squad is a specialized task force focused on armed robberies. The bulk of the early conflict revolves around their interactions with each other, mainly focusing on Regan and Nancy’s love affair. It figures Regan is being internally investigated by Nancy’s husband Ivan (Allen Leech).
The second act is where the story finally gets going. One of the biggest problems is that it takes a solid hour for the rising action. This rising action comes in the form of a masterfully filmed shoot-out that spans a good twenty minutes.
It’s too bad it took so long for this to happen because it was one the of the most gripping shoot-outs I’ve seen. Unlike most sequences, both the good and bad guys realistically shot and missed each other a whole lot. It made it oddly more suspenseful because it seemed like any shot could be the one that actually landed. The frantic camerawork added to the effectiveness, too.
I won’t spoil the third act, except that it does an adequate job wrapping up the story.
Does it make the slower first act worth it? Probably. The story hinges on Winstone’s character, and he plays the morally-gray aging agent really well. His romance with Nancy may be a plot device of sorts, but I’d argue it adds to his character, too.
Surprisingly, towards the end his connection with Drew’s character works really well, too. Known for his musical career, I was impressed with his acting skills. Somehow, I still don’t think they really established the relationship early enough (despite the prolonged beginning). However, there still was enough to make it all work.
In a year fraught with less-than-stellar action movies, I’d put The Sweeney at the top of the genre. Sure, it was released in Britain last year, but it’s about time for the States to see it. I’m holding back all the compliments because I don’t think it’ll be a movie I remember much by the end of the year. But, here and now, I think The Sweeney is worth a view, even if it’s just for one magnificent run-and-gun sequence. There are other highlights amongst the subpar pace.
The Sweeney opens in limited release this weekend. Check local theaters for potential showtimes. It was previously released for home theater internationally, too, so there are copies to buy online.
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