Fish & Chips & Brits

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Fish & Chips & Brits

  • Fish & Chips & Brits

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    sweeney_blog.jpg
    Entertainment One US
    Winstone's cop must, yes, work outside the law.
    The Dinner: Fish and chips, at Buckley's (232 First Ave. W.).

    The Movie: The Sweeney, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

    The Screenplate: If you were an impressionable lad growing up in England during the '70s, The Sweeney needs no explanation. For the rest of us, the TV show, broadcast from 1975-78, goes like this: There is a division within London's police force known as The Flying Squad, dating to 1919, that crosses the city's precincts in order to stop robberies and combat violent crime. The mobile "flying" force then gets transliterated in Cockney rhyming slang from Flying Squad to Sweeney Todd--the famous fictional barber and murderer--and from there to The Sweeney, whose cops employ tough and sometimes illegal methods to catch their prey. None of which is explained in the new movie The Sweeney, starring Ray Winstone, because all us grew up in England during the '70s, right? Winstone, as a young actor, once appeared on the show, and now he plays Jack Regan, the toughest, oldest, and most unorthodox cop on the squad. I like Winstone (Sexy Beast, Hugo), and I like Regan. In fact, the ex-boxer Winstone is pretty much playing Regan as himself: A fat, louche, take-no-crap Limey with no patience for the niceties of life. He likes cigarettes (smoked indoors, despite all public-health laws), lots of beer, and fried foods. This brings us to Buckley's on Queen Anne....

    Buckley's is a simple place. Let's get that out of the way first. It meets expectations and never threatens, like a warm breeze on a gray March day, to exceed expectations. That's the way the fish and chips ($14.95 for large, three-piece portion) works. It's the kind of agreeable, salted, but not excessively greasy dish that demands one pint, maybe two, and you're out the door for $25 or less. I call that good value--you can be in and out in under an hour.

    Regan and his boisterous mates on the Flying Squad would be there at Buckley's far longer, as when they celebrate their first big bust in The Sweeney--drinking and boasting into the wee hours. The TV show's '70s grit, very much influenced by Kojak and The French Connection, has been traded for a more modern Cool Britannia vibe. The cops now work in a high-rise with shiny new Macs. Everyone's texting one another and exchanging lewd banter, and the women give as good as they get. This new Sweeney is a multi-culti crew; and though Regan is an old-school grouch, he inspires nothing but loyalty from his hip young minions. (His protégé is played by scrawny little musician Ben Drew, aka Plan B.) Regan has the brass and virility of a much younger man. In fact, he's shagging the wife (Hayley Atwell) of the internal affairs officer (Steven Mackintosh) who's determined to bring him down.

    After not more than half an hour, however, it becomes obvious that The Sweeney also will meet expectations and do nothing more. Regan and his jolly band are confounded by a jewelry heist that leaves a woman dead. Then there's a big shootout in Trafalgar Square, a couple of car chases, Regan's mid-film disgrace (turn in your gun, badge, cell phone, etc.), the death of colleague, and his triumphant return. We've seen the same story arc a thousand times before. What seemed fresh in the' 70s is not fresh today. "You gotta act like criminals to catch them," says Regan's number two. Again, it's a motto we don't need to hear, since we've seen it a thousand times... But novelty isn't the point here. A Michael Mann Miami Vice-Heat sheen has been laid over the old cop show framework. Director Nick Love is one of those impressionable Brits who love The Sweeney for childhood nostalgia's sake; why it demands to be a movie is an argument far beyond him.

    "You're a dinosaur," Regan is inevitably told. But that just makes him that much more determined to solve the big case, battle Serbian ex-paratroopers, survive beatings and stabbings, and even sample the salad in order to shed a few stone for his much younger girlfriend. (Winstone is 56; Atwell is 31. Ewww.) But there's never any doubt where Regan or The Sweeney are headed. It's a small predictable pleasure, much like the fish and chips at Buckley's.

     
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