The Sweeney was a British police series that revolutionised the genre on UK television in the mid 1970s, by showing members of the Sweeney (cockney rhyming slang, Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad) to be as rough, tough and unreconstructed as the thieves that they brought down. FYI SOCA does a similar job but has no CRS (Cockney Rhyming Slag) and would make a rubbish title.
The Sweeney’s lead was Detective Inspector Jack Regan, played by John Thaw, and (fact fans) the pilot episode to the Sweeney was tiled Regan. Regan was specifically written for Thaw and was a “typical” 1970’s copper, who drank, smoked, shagged, swore, bullied and fought as “well” as any villain, and was described as someone who is “so bent he cannot be straightened”. “Bent” or not the Sweeny were the good guys, fighting robbers and their pen pushing superiors alike. Regan was supported by detective Sargent Carter (played by Dennis Waterman) who was simply a younger, cockier version of Regan, “You even *bruise* him and you’ll need an embalmer, not a brief, my son!”
This Sweeney has finally been remade for the big screen and is directed by Nick (the man behind endless mockney gangster / hooligan “rowlocks”) Love and written (presumably in crayon) by Love and John (Shallow Grave) Hodge, based on the characters created by Ian Kennedy Martin. The film stars Ray Winstone as Ray Winstone from the bet365 adverts (calling himself Jack Regan) and rapper / film maker Plan B (Aka Ben Drew ) (who wasn’t even born when the Sweeney finished its original TV run) as George Carter. The film also stars Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell and Steven Mackintosh.
When a serious and organised (and violent) bank heist takes place, the Sweeny suspect an old adversary has come back, to their manor and our heroes will stop at nothing in pursuit of the wrong ‘un.
Part homage, part cash-in this 2012’s film version of the Sweeney is an honest (yet pointless) love letter to the original series (with flashier cars, bigger guns and more bullets). It continues the idea that those cops are as thick as thieves, but shifts the action to the present day. This leaves Ray Winston’s Regan looking like a charmless dinosaur, rather than the old fashioned salt of the earth type he was 40 years ago. Plan B (nothing to be ashamed of as an actor, although it’s a shame that the word “wobbery” features so prominently in the Sweeney) is somewhat hamstrung by a script that has Carter looking like a terrible example of police procedure, rather than a well-meaning, rule bending maverick.
It’s difficult to watch the Sweeney in light of Life on Mars’ Gene Hunt and the Fast Show’s Monkfish (“Put your knickers on and go and make me a cup of tea!”) I was left chuckling at rather than with the modern Sweeney’s unreconstructed patter, “Jog on”, “Slag”, “Muppet”, “Get out tha way or I’ll break your legs”, “What a mug”, “No one takes liberties on my patch,” and “Put yer trousers on, yer nicked!”
Back in the 1970s only farmers drove Range Rovers, mobiles were hung over cribs, fags were something you smoked, birds didn’t mind be called “birds”, cholesterol was a Spanish holiday resort, you drank tap water and coppers were meant to be blunt instruments. It’s not the 70’s anymore, Sudoku have replaced Page 3 with current members of the Flying Squad, but no one seems to have told Nick Love that, hence the modern Sweeney look’s as out of place as a kipper tie on an iPhone.