Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Flick Of The Day: The Sweeney

Oi you diamond geezer? Fancy a trip to the flicks? I've got the one for you if you can Adam and Eve it and all for under an Ayrton Senna. You should go and have a butchers at today's flick of the day, The Sweeney. So hop in your Jam Jar or a Sherbert Dab and head to your local purveyor of home entertainment so you can feast your Mince Pies on this big screen adaptation of the 70's British cop show.
Ray Winstone, a man never afraid of playing the gangster, stars as Jack Regan a member of the old Sweeney Todd with a yearning for a Barney and a Bang Up and a proclivity for finishing his sentences with "We're the focking sweeney, son!" and "You're nicked mate!". Regan leads a group of old school cops with a penchant for clichéd dialogue and the sexual politics of a bygone era. Regan's main partner in (stopping) crime is George Carter played by Ben Drew while their unit is overseen by Frank Haskins played by Damian Lewis in upper class fop mode. Between extended scenes of Regan's illicit affair with a married woman in an impossibly palatial high rise Holiday Inn, he gets around to some actual police work. Granted this mainly takes the form of police chases, beating suspects and saying his catchphrase "We're the focking sweeney, son!" but he gets it done. Of course things can't go on like for this forever eventually a crime is committed and Regan and Co are forced into some investigative work.
There is nothing wrong with an enjoyable well made action picture. All too often I find myself being accused of being unable to enjoy simpler pleasures such as this in favour of obscure foreign language pictures and independent American cinema. However this is not the case, a well made action film can tick many boxes on the entertainment form. Unfortunately for all concerned, The Sweeney is not such a film. As much as I like Ray Winstone and his honest performances, this film is a terrible waste of his talents. The script is awful, plumbing every possible cliché to drive the film onward. The story is boredom punctuated by car chases. There is nothing original, everything feels like something you've seen before in better movies. It's big action scene, an extended shoot-out in the centre of London feels ripped off from Heat. The bad guys were rubber masks reminiscent of Point Break. 
This of course begs the question why was this film made? The Sweeney TV show ran for 3 series between 1975 and 1978 starring John Thaw, better known as Inspector Morse and everybody's favourite misogynistic wife beater Dennis Waterman. However that was more than 30 years ago, who was crying out for the jump to the big screen?  As with so many of these ill advised adaptations, it is something perhaps best left untouched. Nostalgia is popular because it shows us the rose tinted view of how things used to be. You never remember the crap elements, only the sunny days. Starsky & Hutch, The A Team, The Brady Bunch, The Dukes of Hazzard, Charlies Angels, Bewitched, Miami Vice, all awful television shows made into worse movies. You can add The Sweeney to this list. You're focking nicked son!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Flick of The Day: Premium Rush

2012 has been a big year for American actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, there was his crucial and justly lauded turn in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, followed by the mind bending science fiction action of Looper alongside Bruce Willis and he is currently filling the screen space opposite Daniel Day Lewis in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln however perhaps his best performance of the year is in the little seen recent release Premium Rush about bike couriers on the streets of New York.
Levitt is a recent law school graduate named Wilee who spends his days in the (supposedly) high octane world of bike couriers criss crossing the streets of Manhattan as he delivers and collects his packages. It turns out to be an interesting sub culture and David Koepp's fast paced storytelling is well suited to pulling the audience into the this otherwise unseen brotherhood of wheelies. One afternoon Wilee arrives to collect a package with a difference.  This letter contains something which corrupt cop Bobby Monday played by the excellent Michael Shannon is desperate to get his hands on. There is a whole sub plot involving money laundering and people trafficking which explains the letter but I'm not going to bore you with it. It's merely a MacGuffin to drive the film on. All you need to know is that Wilee has it and Monday wants its, so begins a chase across the streets of Manhattan.
Levitt excels in the role of the underachiever with a clear moral code. Wilee may not be making the right decisions in his own life but he knows what the right thing to do is and puts himself on the line accordingly. The other impressive aspect of his performance is the sheer amount of fitness required for it. The cycling chase scenes are spectacular at times and they rely largely on Levitt's skill at the wheel. Michael Shannon's role is perhaps underwritten and we know nothing other than he faces a gambling debt and needs to score a large some of money in short order. Shannon is perhaps the best character actor in American cinema today though and he brings a gruff realism to the role.
The film is slight at barely 90 minutes and there isn't really and fat on the script that I can see but its fast paced nature never really lets up even in the flashback scenes and the film is all the better for it. It's enjoyable and it doesn't hang around long enough to overstay its welcome. Director David Koepp made his name as a screenwriter with a credit list of blockbusters that has to be seen to be believed but after 1999's Stir of Echoes and 2008's Ghost Town, this confirms his talent as a director of intelligent mainstream cinema.
All in all, this is an enjoyable break neck chase movie that makes the most of a talented cast and some excellent cinematography. The backdrop of the Manhattan streets is the perfect setting for such a high octane thriller as we have seen countless times for. A fine film.

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