When British cinema of the 70s is discussed, "Sweeney 2" rarely gets a mention. Yet it illustrates the changing times as vividly as many better-known films. The blazing action of "Sweeney!" is replaced by a thoughtful film that, although more low-key, is perhaps a more accurate reflection of the television series.
Regan and Carter are on the trail of a gang of bank-robbers who, from their idyllic base on Malta, occasionally return to Britain (a country they believe to be "finished") to carry out violent and well-planned raids. The men lead a luxurious communal lifestyle with their wives and children yet it is one financed by thrusting sawn-off shotguns into the faces of terrified bank cashiers and taking hostages (one of whom, a young woman, is killed in the raid that opens the film). They seem to symbolise the souring of the 60s dream.
Other details are equally telling. A young schoolteacher tells George Carter that she "doesn't like policemen". No longer does the force command widespread public respect. Regan's boss (the excellent Denholm Elliott) is facing imprisonment on corruption charges, reflecting the corruption trials that so stained the image of the Metropolitan Police in the 70s.
On their abortive trip to Malta to try to interview the men, Regan and Carter are plainly jealous and angry when they witness the lifestyle of their targets - a far cry from their grimy world of bacon sandwiches from burger vans and knees-ups down the local. But by the end of "Sweeney 2" and a year before Margaret Thatcher won power in Britain, it is the defiantly working-class coppers who have the last laugh, joined by their girlfriends for a boozy celebration - while the wives of the bank robbers prove less reliable.
Euston Films had a track record of producing high-quality television and (in this case) film. "Sweeney 2" fully confirms this. There are good supporting performances from Nigel Hawthorne, Lewis Fiander and Derrick O'Connor plus an exciting score by Tony Hatch. The action scenes, although lesser in number than in the first film, are superbly handled by one of the TV show's action specialists, director Tom Clegg.
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