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'The Sweeney' review: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew star in TV remake

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'We're the Sweeney, s**thead. You're nicked!' So goes Ray Winstone's opening line in The Sweeney, Nick Love's modern-day reworking of John Thaw and Dennis Waterman's classic '70s cop show.

Detectives Jack Regan and George Carter's strong-arm exploits for the flying squad (Sweeney Todd, get it?) may seem like dinosaur tactics by today's policing standards (a culture clash examined in the brilliant Life on Mars), but they're alive and well in Love's paean to macho, head-cracking action heroes.

Brit cinema is littered with classic crime films such as Get Carter, The Italian Job and The Long Good Friday, but when it comes all to guns-a-blazin' tales, it's Hollywood which has set the gold standard. This new Sweeney sees Love in Michael Mann mode as he attempt to replicate the slick sheen of US thrillers like Heat and The Departed.

The Sweeney still
It's admirable to see a Brit movie with big-scale ambition, but The Sweeney too often runs into dead ends as it fails to bring anything new to the cop genre. As evidenced by the aforementioned dialogue, it's a film lacking in subtlety and nuance, too.

At the heart of it is Winstone's detective Regan, a hard-living tough guy who's fighting battles within the force (Steven Mackintosh's senior officer is cracking down on the flying squad) and on the streets as a jewellery store killing lifts the lid on London's criminal underworld.

Regan's affair with colleague Nancy (Captain America's Hayley Atwell), the wife of Mackintosh's character, means his personal life is no less turbulent. The only stability he has is in his relationship with young partner Carter (Ben Drew).

Regan is loud, brash and at times extremely unlikable, but Winstone's charisma in the role means you can't take your eyes off of him (that is, until his sex scene with Atwell).

Director Love shoots London with a glossy sheen - helicopter shots soar over Tower Bridge and the Gherkin to a blaring Hans Zimmer-like score from Lorne Balfe. There are some cracking action set pieces, too, like a shootout that sweeps through Trafalgar Square, a tense cat-and-mouse in an underground car park and a caravan-wrecking finale that will have Jeremy Clarkson salivating.

For the most part, it's daft, un-taxing fun, but with a boilerplate cop storyline and an under-developed supporting cast - namely Paul Anderson's sneering villain and Homeland star Damian Lewis's police chief - it never quite establishes itself as anything more than an entertaining time-killer.

Love and co make a good fist of it, but when it comes to playing cops and robbers on the big screen, Hollywood is still some distance ahead.

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