The Sweeney: Paris, 2015.
Directed by Benjamin Rocher.
Starring Karl Amoussou, Féodor Atkine, Jakob Cedergren,Stefi Clema, Oumar Diaw, Alban Lenoir, Jess Liaudin, Caterina Murino, Thierry Neuvic, Sabrina Ouazani, .and Jean Reno
A ragtag squad of French cops, whose old-fashioned protocol infuriates the commissioner, recognises a series of bank and jewellery heists that have the hallmarks of an old adversary.
Antigang/The Squad/The Sweeney: Paris (yes, it has all three titles) is a loose remake of Nick Love’s The Sweeney, which was the film adaptation of the 1970s British TV cop-drama of the same name. To anyone familiar with Nick Love’s work, they will know he isn’t known for nuance character development, nor is he known for his gracious approach to conveying his own social politics (his conservative ‘better in the good ol’ days’ mantra is most prominent in Outlaw). The Sweeney: Paris‘s director Benjamin Rocher has previously co-directed two zombie films – La Horde and Goal of the Dead – which were praised for their impressive action set pieces, but were met with critical derision for their formulaic narratives. In short, one can deduce going into this film that this will likely be a rough-and-tumble action flick with minor hints towards the French political milieu.
The stoic Serge Buren (Jean Reno) is the young squad’s captain, whose unorthodox methods in detaining suspects e.g. dangling suspects from rooftops, are closely mimicked by members of the squad. Cartier (Alban Lenoir) idolises Buren, Boulez (Jean-Toussaint Bernard) follows Buren’s lead without question, and newcomer Manu (Oumar Diaw) is quick to conform. Buren’s personal life, however, is complicated as he’s having an affair with Margaux (Caterina Murino), the wife of their newly appointed boss, the cocky and arrogant Becker (Thierry Neuvic). This reverence the squad has for Buren feels forced, and consequently false. It positions the audience to blindly accept Buren as their father-figure for the film as well as the characters. The affair also doesn’t feel natural for its purpose is to facilitate the tension between Buren and Becker. While there is chemistry between Reno and Murino, it is an underdeveloped subplot that simply hits the right emotive plot-points.
Becker grows tiresome of the squad’s ‘cowboy antics’ and decides to handover certain files to other teams who follow protocol. However, when Buren and his squad discover the series of heists are being committed by the smug Russian criminal Kasper (Jakob Cedergren), they ignore Becker’s orders to remain docile, and begin to tear through the Parisian streets, scouting potential banks and jewellers, in order to hunt down Kasper’s gang. The irony here is twofold; the improbable setups and narrative conveniences come to undermine the dramatic and tender moments e.g. the aforementioned affair slows down the film’s pacing rather than adding any character development. The film also wishes for the audience to align itself with Buren’s crew, yet Becker’s demands are wholly justifiable i.e. cops can’t just go around beating people ‘like the good ol’ days.’
While the film’s dramatic scenes may be underdeveloped, Rocher does remind us his flair for action. Many of the hand-to-hand combat sequence may feel staged, but Rocher keeps everything within the frame, and doesn’t succumb to the rapid-editing as found in his contemporaries (e.g. Taken 3 director Olivier Megaton). The fights are framed with clarity, and are edited for a visceral experience. There is also a noteworthy heist scene in the middle of the film that is reminiscent of Michael Mann’s iconic shootout sequence in Heat. Indeed, one has to wait patiently between the lacklustre dialogue scenes to witness these high-octane moments.
The Sweeney: Paris suffers largely from an underdeveloped script, and its host of simplified characters. If the best one can say of a film is the choreography of the central shootout scene reminiscent of another film, and praise its merciful short runtime of 90 minutes (including credits) then one can conclude the film is deeply flawed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★