There’s a French remake of The Sweeney available on Amazon Prime – how does it translate without Ray Winstone?
At the end of last year we did a podcast based around the idea of rebooting unsuccessful films, instead of only remaking stories that have already been done well. Amyway, do you remember the film version of The Sweeney with Ray Winstone and Plan B? Sort of? Thanks to ongoing, endless repeats on Dave, you probably do remember the episode of Top Gear where Clarkson, Hammond, and May made a typical mess of designing the car chase sequences. But the film itself sort of came and went. It’s a good film, with a nice hard edge, but there seems to be a box office ceiling on what British crime films can do (Welcome To The Punch is a film that spring to mind in that regard). Any hopes of a sequel seem to have petered out – and yet, probably through some clever interntaional rights deal, we have a French remake with Jean Reno playing the Jack Regan role made famous by John Thaw and then played by Winstone.
Reno is Serge Buren, the leader of a serious crime investigations team in Paris. At the start of the film they make a huge bust, arresting a major criminal gang, destroying most of the building as well. Serge driving their car head on into the bad guys is a good indication of how the film will go. When he gets back to the station (or the rather flash office they have) his boss (Thierry Neuvic) chews him out for another destructive night – little does he know that Serge is having an affair with his wife (Caterina Murino, Daniel Craig’s first ill fated Bond girl in Casino Royale). The rest of the team claim the results speak for themselves, but when they struggle to solve a series of bank robberies, office politics and petty jealousies start to catch up with Serge and his squad.
If you’re going to try and replace Ray Winstone, Jean Reno is up to the job. His gruff, tired, anti-authority Serge Buren is probably the biggest difference between this and the original, along with Alban Lenoir’s Cartier being slightly less the junior partner than Plan B’s Carter. Buren is more than just Regan speaking French, he sets the tone for the whole film by being more in control than Winsone’s version of Jack Regan, who was very much a violent man on the edge. In the same way, The Sweeney: Paris is slightly toned down, especially in terms of bad language, from The Sweeney. The opening bit of banter is changed from a blokey conversation about the attractiveness of one of the teams girlfriend, to them discussing famous musicians who died at 27 years old. The fact the conversation ends with Johnny Hallyday tells you which one is which. Another of the memorable moments in the opening scene in the English version has Ray Winstone burst through a wall to grab a villain: in this version Reno drives a forklift through said wall. Slight changes, but as the French say “on ne change pas une équipe qui gagne” (“you don’t change a winning team”, come on, you knew I going to drop at least one into the review!).
Although this was released as Antigang or The Squad outside the UK, it is almost a straight remake. It reminded me of watching Spike Lee’s Oldboy at times, almost just a translation from one language to another.
But you’ve got to love changing the name Carter into Cartier, and although it starts with a much softer edge, the “old fashioned cops on the front line” feels just right, and it builds nicely and uses the violence better, making it mean more when someone catches a bullet. Give it a watch, it’s pretty stripped down film (not even hitting the 90 minute mark with credits) and I wouldn’t be surprised if this incarnation did get a sequel.
Until next time, stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
Ps As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s our podchat discussing remakes: