As regular blog readers know I have a boxed set of every episode of The Sweeney – the original 1970s series starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. It is one of those DVDs that I can always pull down and watch to cheer me up in bad times. And so I approach the release of the new movie, the Sweeney, starring Ray Winstone in Thaw’s role ( Inspector Regan) with some trepidation.
Part of the appeal of the original series ( other than the violence, the wit and the nostalgia for a past era) is the repartee between Regan, Sergeant Carter (Waterman) and their boss ( the solid and straight Haskins, played by Garfield Morgan). They all come from different backgrounds. Haskins is a nice middle class chap who went to University and lives in the burbs. Carter is a Londoner – a devoted fan of Fulham who grew up and lived there when folks who came from Fulham did not all speak Arabic or live on Trust funds. Regan is a northerner ( like Thaw himself from Manchester), albeit one who has lived in London for many years. The programme is a West London programme – only occasionally do the Squad venture out East. In fact while they made it to Bermondsey once, there was never any footage shot in what you might term the East End.
And so we come to the new Sweeney. I rarely go out to watch films but I shall make an exception in this case. Regan is played by the archetypal East Ender Ray Winstone who is East End through and through ( right down to the fact that he now lives in Essex).
To plug the movie, he has taken Time Out around his “manor” this week, starting naturally at Upton Park. It is a good, if rather sentimental and superficial read and can be found HERE.
I called up Lucian Miers, the bard of the Boleyn and East London’s most feared short seller to see if his youthful memories were similar. Sadly he appears to be off on the cheap lager and wittered on incoherently about Note 7 for a few minutes before appearing to drop his phone down a lavatory. If I get a sensible response from him later I shall post it here.
Winstone says that Regan 2012 version will still be pulling young birds, as did Regan 1976. Not young in the Savile sense or even of a John Peel vintage, but more than a 55 year old with a paunch deserves to pull. Apparently the Sweeney of 2012 will also be free to use their fists which seems highly implausible as it would be a clear breach of the Met’s policy on respecting the human rights of the criminal class, let alone not breaking any elf n’ safey rules.
In 1976 the Met was corrupt, did break the rules to nail known villains, did drink and smoke heavily and was violent to the n’th degree. The Sweeney was plausible and that was its appeal. Everyone knew that Dixon of Dock Green was past his sell by date. I will need some convincing that Sweeney 2012 can both capture the appeal of the original and be plausible at the same time.
And will Winstone have the same chemistry – driven by some common interests (sex, drink, tobacco and football – Carter) and some clear culture clashes ( almost everything – Haskins) – with his colleagues as Thaw displayed? Again, I will need some convincing.