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Thursday, October 1, 2015

'Sweeney!' DVD: Big-Screen Version of Gritty '70s British Cop Show


[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region-Four DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. player; it requires a (very affordable) international player.]

This post on the Madman Entertainment DVD release of the theatrical film "Sweeney!" from the Madaman Britannia film collection catalog represents a shift to writing about these big-screen productions based on hit British television programs. Regular readers know that recent posts on Britannia titles have covered "shouldabeen a series" DVD releases, such as the Leonard Nimoy pilot "Baffled!". This series of reviews will continue with coverage of "Sweeney2!" in early October 2015.

The following YouTube clip of the "Sweeney!" trailer nicely showcases the '70slicious feel of the series. You will almost feel that you are watching a promo. for a "Dirty Harry" film.


"Sweeney!" is based on the four series (my people call them seasons) mid-70s British police drama "The Sweeney." The manner in which the titular team of detectives (more formally known as the Flying Squad in the London Metropolitan Police) misconduct themselves will provide modern-day scifi and drama fans a strong sense of the squad in the British version of the series "Life om Mars." The latter has a 21st century detective mysteriously transported back to the less enlightened '70s.

The parallels between "Sweeney" and "Mars" continue with "Sweeney" squad leader D.I.Jack Regan (played by John "Inspector Morse" Thaw) being very similar to rough and gruff commanding officer Gene Hunt in "Mars." The physical and behavioral similarities between Tyler portrayor John "The Master" Simm and second-in-command George Carter on "Sweeney!" further indicated that the "Mars" producers are "Sweeney" fans.

The action in "Sweeney!" begins with parallel stories of a murder of a party girl being made to look like a suicide and a British government official publicly advocating raising oil prices as an economic stimulus. The reveal that the girl and the official have a history ties the events together and sets the stage for the primary tale of corruption and blackmail.

In true '70s hard-boiled police drama style, another "friend" of said working girl informing Regan of his suspicions regarding the nature of the death of that woman opens the door for involving the detective. The informant soon meeting a violent end leads to Regan pushing the matter to an extent that makes him a target of a relatively less extreme effort to derail his investigation.

The events described above lead to more intricate and extreme activities regarding the matter in which the initial murder victim and the public servant are ensnared. Although the element of the nefarious activity going much deeper and higher than initially indicated is standard, the nature of the broader purpose and cavalier audacity of the effort to further that scheme are above average. Casually discussing the whacking of an obstacle in the presence of said impediment is one example of that blatant attitude.

Any fan of the genre of which "The Sweeney" is a member knows that the campaign against Regan does not deter him and Carter from pursuing justice, The ensuing pursuit with copious hot lead is equally predictable. The extended nature of that chase and the fact that that prolonged segment never gets boring are nice surprises.

The net result of the well-presented back-room politics, cops on the take, and crusaders who realize that the rules often do not apply is that it supports the oft-repeated Unreal TV theory that British television and films kick the arse of the similar American fare.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Sweeney!" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.