THE SWEENY: PARIS, aka THE SQUAD aka ANTIGANG, directed by Benjamin Rocher, of THE HORDE, stars Jean Reno, and co-stars Alban Lenoir and Thierry Neuvic, all well-known actors in France. It’s seeing worldwide release after being shown in France in 2015.
If you’ve seen the 2012 British drama, know that this film is a very close remake. Whether it’s worth checking out depends on just how much of a fan of Jean Reno’s you are, as well as how nostalgic you already feel for another version of this story. Those who loved the original TV show from the 70s were already disenchanted by the English feature film, begging the question of this newer take, “who is this for, really?”
I confess I hadn’t seen the one from 2012 before sitting down to this new rendition. I found PARIS reasonably entertaining, even though, as per usual, my French fluency had my head shaking at the subtitle translations. I’m not sure who does the translating, but almost without exception exact accuracy is chosen over capturing the feeling or sense of what is being said. Indeed, it left me vaguely impressed, until I watched the English version.
What possessed producers to create something so similar to the Nick Love-directed one released only a few years ago? It is true that the filmmakers of THE SWEENEY: PARIS take advantage of the opportunity to French it up. Having duo citizenship as French and American, I know the actors in this movie well and like their other work, and in that respect it had some appeal. There is definitely a difference in not only dialogue but characterization based on the humor, class structure, and social norms associated with France that alters the film. Is it enough to warrant seeing it again or instead of rewatching THE SWEENEY? In a word, no.
THE SWEENEY: PARIS, with it’s 90 minutes running time, is cut down from 112 for the English version. Unfortunately, much of the character and plot development that take place in the earlier film is lost in these missing minutes. Without giving away major story points, suffice to say in THE SWEENEY: PARIS the action is left needing to exist largely for itself, instead of being motivated by character experience. That doesn’t negate the entertainment value of some impressive action set pieces, but it does remove most of the impetus to see it in addition to the first feature..
For those who have seen neither film, the choice is clear. Although Ray Winstone shows he continues to have that grizzled edge as an actor that makes his DI Jack Regan believable, it’s even more fun seeing Hayley Atwell of AGENT CARTER, Damian Lewis of HOMELAND (and WOLF HALL, and everything else, it seems), and Allen Leech of DOWNTON ABBEY, all of whom became far bigger stars subsequent to the release. THE SWEENEY’s gun battle in Trafalgar Square remains the cornerstone of the film, compensating the cliched elements seen a million times in other action flicks, from Guy Ritchie, Michael Mann, and a host of others, including French action auteur Luc Besson.
All in all, it’s confounding why Rocher, apart from a paycheck or an obsession with 70s Brit TV, would choose to add this to his building filmography. If you want to see Reno in action, see LEON, SUBWAY, or LA FEMME NIKITA, or wait for it to show up streaming online. Otherwise, just see HEAT or INSIDE MAN again. Those are doing the same thing infinitely better than either versions of THE SWEENEY.