Friday, 10 December 2010
THE SWEEPER (1996)
Directed by: Joseph Merhi
Story by: Jacobsen Hart
Screenplay by: William Applegate Jr. & Karen McCoy
Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Ed Lauter, Kristen Dalton & Jeff Fahey
The Sweeper is an entertaining action thriller from the PM Entertainment Group. Though not quite as good as say Rage or Recoil, The Sweeper is a decent little flick featuring some excellent action sequences.
Mark Goddard (Howell) is a tough renegade cop who displays brutal and unconventional ways of catching bad guys. Scarred by the death of his father (Fahey) he is determined to clean up the streets. Noticing his unique abilities, Molls (Lauter) recruits Goddard to be part of a secret police force called “Justice Incorporated.” Known as “Sweepers”, these police officers use any method necessary to take down the worst of the worst. Working alongside fellow Sweeper, Rachel (Dalton), Goddard soon finds himself up to his neck in death and destruction with the line between cop and killer becoming more and more blurred.
Having seen the trailer years ago I’d wanted to see The Sweeper for some time, as it looked like one giant action juggernaut of a movie. However, upon viewing I found the film to be a more well-rounded thriller rather than just a succession of crashes and explosions. Goddard’s back story (featured in an opening prologue set in the 70’s and showing his family being slaughtered) explains what a troubled, difficult and violent young man he has become. From this, it would have been easy for the filmmakers to make just another revenge story. There is a great scene where the young Goddard (Max Slade) is witness to his parents’ slaying and then tormented by one of the killers. It is a tense scene that sets the tone and shows director Joseph Merhi (Executive Target) working at something different, rather than throwing in another car chase. Howell’s early scenes with his estranged wife and son are also nicely played and provide an emotional balance to all the action.
Things do fray slightly come the second half of the film. The plot gets a bit convoluted with a conveyor belt of cliched tough guys being ushered in, clogging up the proceedings with typical bad guy swagger. Ed Lauter (Raw Deal) is on good form as the not so saintly Molls, but is perhaps a little underused. Kristen Dalton (They Nest) provides fiery heat as the gun-toting Rachel and it’s good to see a gal being as tough as the guys. Hitcher boy Howell is on pretty good form, this being one of his better films, but does tend to overact in some scenes.
Which brings us to the action. Like many of PM’s mid-nineties output, The Sweeper features some dazzling stunts and action on what must have been a relatively slim budget. Eschewing CGI, all the stunts are done for real, giving the film a refreshing back to basics feel. The opening chase is a doozy; there are a couple of excellent shoot-outs; and despite being as barmy as hell, the final freeway chase (featuring, among other things, a biplane) is so thrillingly staged you won’t mind how completely over the top ridiculous it is. However, the best is an exciting roof top chase on foot that wouldn’t look out of place in a big budget action fest. Once again, action-meister Spiro Razatos is the man behind the thrills and spills.
What stops the film from being all round solid entertainment is a bad case of continuity. The Sweeper features some jarring continuity jumps that almost spoil the action on screen. The worst example is when a gunfight cum chase taking place during the day all of a sudden switches to a car chase at night. Either something has been cut out or they could only film the car chase at night but whatever the case, it is a glaring mistake that ultimately mars the film.
Overall though, The Sweeper is a perfectly solid action film that for most part manages an entertaining balance between drama and some insane action.