When a television series is successful it’s not uncommon that attention turns to the idea of whether a transfer to cinema screens is possible. In the ‘70s, cop show The Sweeney was a smash hit and a source of controversy due to its level of violence and the behaviour of its hard-living ‘heroes’. At that time the public’s perception of police was no longer of the reassuring bobby on the beat (in something like Jack Warner in Dixon of Dock Green for example) but rather more a gang of thugs not too dissimilar to the criminals they were meant to put away. Of course, it was an easy idea to think this could play well in theatres, free from the restraints of television and considerations of content. At the same time, in the era of Watergate, the paranoid political thriller was at the height of its popularity. And so, Sweeney! (as it was rechristened) would try and marry the two together.
John Thaw reprises his role as DI Jack Regan, with Dennis Waterman as sidekick DS George Carter. When a prostitute is murdered and her villain boyfriend decides to check into what happened, it kicks off a sequence of events that puts Regan’s career and his very life in serious danger and leads him to a truth that goes all the way to the British government. The end result is a very entertaining film that arguably doesn’t work fully as either The Sweeney or bleakly cynical thriller but is still very good fun. To try and cram in as much as possible it plays as a somewhat reductive version of both, and doesn’t give Thaw much to do other than bluster and huff as Regan, and relegates Waterman to bit player. That doesn’t really harm it too much however and from performances to production design and direction it’s a solid and enjoyable British thriller.
This new Blu-ray release has a restored HD picture and it’s generally sharp and shows off the hideous clothes and brutalist architecture with superb clarity. As far as extras on this release, it’s sad to say not much. There’s a trailer that furiously sells the movie as a soon-to-be classic, some PDF material and an image gallery that is certainly interesting, stuffed as it is with poster designs, lobby cards and other promotional material but hardly makes this release essential. Despite this, if you don’t own the film on any format, this is definitely the way to go for that lovely picture. Fans of the series or film or indeed anyone curious what all the fuss was about should pick this up.
SWEENEY! (1977) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: DAVID WICKES / SCREENPLAY: RANALD GRAHAM / STARRING: JOHN THAW, DENNIS WATERMAN, BARRY FOSTER, IAN BANNEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW