The Sweeny: veni voluntarie, vidi violentiam, vici vilitates
The Sweeny is an aggressively horrendous film.
The Sweeny is an aggressively horrendous film; not particularly for the use of violence or gore, which is easily outdone in excessive attention by such recent fare as Dredd, but for the attitudes and enthusiasm exhibited towards its sanguine fantasies. From script to carefully-picked-shot writer and director Nick Love demonstrates not only how amazing it is to beat someone up but also how funny, with his ultra-violent squad of police finding opportunity to crow and cackle as someone else’s cheekbone cracks beneath a non-standard issue baseball bat or axe-handle. Even for police officers the characters are vicious and morally repugnant.
The message of the film then is that pure and unreconstructed social atavism is powerful, both professionally and sexually. Besides how much is made of Ray Winstone’s physical prowess in both violence and sex, with the connection only, albeit heavily, implied, Ben Drew’s second-in-command, whose virility is demonstrated by his pregnant girlfriend and his athletic son, actually gleefully attests to a pre-punch-up priapism. These characters, and the rest of their squad, aren’t just ‘masculine’ they are violently “anti-feminine”, ridiculous hateful and hate-filled parodies of anachronistic gladiatorial combatants who know of no problem they can’t bludgeon or blast out of existence.
This attitude is only reinforced by those Winstone et al. are pitched against; on the one hand you have the villains, bombers and murderers, who, though “slags” in the parlance of the titular thugs, operate along similar tactical and moral grounds differing only in the degree to which they care about the welfare of innocent bystanders. Their other enemy is, of course, Internal Affairs: That branch is Steven Mackintosh’s character alone who, for not shooting, brutalising or beating confessions from suspects, is manifestly emasculated by his impotence and the fact that his wife has been having an affair with Winstone.
There’s a moment towards the end of the second act where it seems that The Sweeny might be about to subvert everything that’s gone before and careen head-on into the consequence and misery that they so richly deserve. Obviously this moment passes quickly, becoming just a low from which to rally. More violence ensues, of course, and escalates across an embarrassingly low-rent backdrop as the film’s utter lack of self-awareness becomes almost, briefly, funny. That sense of levity fades quickly though, faced with the deep-rooted unpleasantness that permeates and poisons the entire experience; The Sweeny is an aggressively horrendous film.