The Ray Winstone/Ben Drew remake of The Sweeney back in 2012 surprised most of us, coming in as a very competent big-screen update of the classic John Thaw/Dennis Waterman TV series. So when a French remake was announced, and with Leon star Jean Reno in the lead role, how could you not get excited? Thankfully The Sweeney: Paris (or Antigang as it’s known overseas) is a big success that really captures the legacy of this brand and updates it to a new audience.
It must be said that the plot follows almost identically to the Winstone/Drew reboot but that’s not a bad thing. The story is simple – Serge Buren (Jean Reno), his young partner Cartier (Alban Lenoir) and their controversial police unit are hot on the trail of cold-blooded armed robbers who have executed one of their victims. With an idea of who could be behind such a heinous crime, and with his flying squad by his side, Buren goes about solving the case in his usual brutal fashion. However this doesn’t endear him to his new police chief, Becker (Thierry Neuvic), who is looking for a reason to shut down their unit for good.
Reno and Lenoir make for a very convincing pair and hold the film together nicely. Lenoir easily impresses as a young cop with a chequered background, whose girlfriend is expecting their first child. Reno’s character, by contrast, is a relic of a bygone era – shooting first and asking questions later and really encompasses the traits that made Regan such a loveable rogue in the 70’s TV series. Plus, the cool factor of seeing Jean Reno tearing up Paris with a gun is just fantastic. The legendary star is a great choice to lead this film and his dynamic with Lenoir marks the films strongest asset.
Where The Sweeney: Paris works better than its British counterpart is in the supporting cast. Buren’s team of police officers are immediately engaging and are afforded the time to really engage with the audience. Not since Michael Mann’s Miami Vice in 2006 has a film delivered a squad of supporting officers who you actually care about. Even the poorly-written role of Buren’s love interest and colleague, here played by Caterina Murino (and in the British version by Hayley Atwell), feels much more rounded and significant this time around.
The second way The Sweeney: Paris trumps the British one is in the onscreen action. It’s pretty fantastic here, with great car chases, fist fights and shoot-outs making full use of the gorgeous Paris location. The Sweeney made London look good but The Sweeney: Paris makes Paris a far bigger star. Kudos to director Benjamin Rocher who really knows how to frame an action sequence. Some of this is incredible, with pacing and an eclectic soundtrack to boot, that blankets the action with an unusual but fitting cloak.
The Sweeney: Paris still defies the odds and comes in as a great piece of escapist fun that’s hard not to love. With bags of attitude and style, I sincerely hope we get a sequel. The Sweeney: Paris is without doubt the best European crime epic we have had for quite some time, even though it’s a familiar story to some. Having French screen legend Féodor Atkine show up is an added bonus too, and it’s so French, there’s even a mention of classic singer Johnny Hallyday in the mix. What more could you want from an action film?! The Sweeney: Paris is pure escapist fun with tour de force action and thrilling spectacle.
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Cast: Jean Reno, Alban Lenoir, Caterina Murino, Jakob Cedergren, Féodor Atkine, Oumar Diaw Director: Benjamin Rocher Writer: John Hodge, Nick Love (original story), François Loubeyre, Tristan Schulmann (adaptation) Released By: Vertigo Releasing Certificate: 15 Duration: 92 mins Release Date: 15th April 2016