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Vintage cops back for more action

the sweeney

(15A, general release, 112 minutes)

Director: Nick Love Stars: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Damian Lewis, Steven Mackintosh

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Many of you will have no clue who or what The Sweeney was, but readers over 40 or so will remember -- perhaps fondly, perhaps not -- the 1970s TV show starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman as London coppers who punched first, asked questions later.

The Sweeney had a kind of primal urgency that was rather winning, and this film attempts to revive the show's shabby charm. And does so rather successfully.

Ray Winstone is Jack Regan, the hard-drinking, chain-smoking leader of London's Flying Squad, a serious crime unit that tackles bank robbers and heist merchants with extreme prejudice. They've just succeeded in violently preventing another violent crime when they're visited by Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh), an internal investigator who thinks Regan is an anachronism and wants to shut his unit.

Nick Love and John Hodge's script is knowingly trashy, and makes just enough references to the TV show to make a real connection. Ben Drew, aka Plan B, takes on the role of Regan's sidekick George Carter, and Winstone tackles the lead role with his usual swaggering aplomb.

And while nobody's idea of a masterpiece, this Sweeney is a lot of fun, with plenty of daredevil car chases and bracing doses of vengeful fisticuffs.

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