The Sweeney: Keeping Up With the Flying Squad


The late, great Bill Hicks once made a joke about how Britain’s so-called “terrible crime” paled in comparison to the US variety (“Yesterday, some hooligans knocked over a dustbin in Shaftesbury”). And while we can certainly debate each country’s respective gun laws and judicial systems, the fact remains that The Sweeney—a new British police drama—feels a lot like an American-made cop movie circa 1990. Here, the London Metro PD’s “Flying Squad” (the title comes from the Cockney rhyming slang version of the term: “Sweeney Todd”) is like any other elite, big city unit, only more multicultural and gender-equalized. Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) gruffly commands his charges in responding to crimes in progress. The team includes his lover Nancy (Hayley Atwell), who’s inconveniently married to the Internal Affairs cop (Steven Mackintosh) out to bust Regan and disband the squad. All the usual tropes turn up: Regan is old-school police, trusting his instincts and sniggering at the bean counters out to hamstring him. His second-in-command Carter (Ben Drew a/k/a the rapper Plan B) is by-the-book and career-oriented. There are red herrings aplenty, automobile and foot chases, the latter adding an extra layer of hilarity, as British police departments apparently don’t emphasize physical fitness. (If only Regan was one day from retirement.) One thing about The Sweeney wouldn’t be repeated in a domestic police drama, however. On two separate occasions the cops, armed with handguns and axe handles (for close-quarters intimidation, we’re told), are pinned down by a thug with a semiautomatic weapon. Clearly this is a sign England needs more firearms.

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