The series was based upon a fictionalised version of the Flying Squad. The term The Sweeney is derived from Cockney rhyming slang, originating in the expression Sweeney Todd: Flying Squad, and is a real term used by the London underworld to refer to the Squad, whose brief was to investigate armed robbery within the MPD (Metropolitan Police District), an area roughly corresponding to Greater London.
The leader of the Squad is the fictional Detective Inspector Jack Regan (John Thaw), and his second-in-command is Detective Sergeant Carter (Dennis Waterman).
A group of particularly violent armed robbers, who are committing bank and payroll robberies all over London, are strangely getting away from each robbery with just £60,000 - often leaving behind cash in excess of this sum. The robbers are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way: they even kill injured members of their own team in order to get clean away (to ensure they can't turn Queen's Evidence). As Regan himself puts it after the first raid in the film: "I've never seen so many dead people".
Film star Denholm Elliott plays a bent senior officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Jupp, asked to resign over allegations of corruption, who just before leaving his post instructs his subordinate to take down the gang. But, armed with gold-plated Purdey shotguns, they evade the Flying Squad for quite some time, leaving a trail which leads Jack Regan all the way to Malta and back, before he finds encouragement from Jupp, who meanwhile has been sent down for corruption because Jack wouldn't testify in court for him.John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan
Dennis Waterman as Detective Sergeant George Carter
Denholm Elliott as ex-Detective Chief Superintendent Jupp
Ken Hutchison as Hill
Anna Gaël as Mrs. Hill
Lewis Fiander as Gorran
Nigel Hawthorne as Detective Chief Inspector Dilke
Barry Stanton as Big John
John Flanagan as Willard
David Casey as Goodyear
Derrick O'Connor as Llewelyn
Frederick Treves as McKyle
John Alkin as Detective Sergeant Tom Daniels
James Warrior as Detective Constable Jellyneck
In spite of its somewhat misleading title, Sweeney 2 is in fact the third movie based on Ian Kennedy-Martin's original concept for The Sweeney. In 1974 a pilot film was made for the ITV television network, entitled Regan, which aired as a made-for-tv movie. There then followed three seasons on television, and, in 1977, a feature film released in cinemas entitled Sweeney!. The movie Sweeney 2 followed in 1978.
As with all the television and cinema outings for Jack Regan's Flying Squad, Sweeney 2 offers a realistic vision of the police and their criminal opponents, conveying what is usually described as a working class depiction of crime at the sharp end. It's a warts-and-all vision of the police, a far cry from the cozy middle class world of tv police shows like Dixon of Dock Green and Softly, Softly: Task Force, which were airing in the mid-1970s on the rival BBC channel.
As seen through Denholm Elliott's character, The Sweeney was not afraid to face the fact that there are such things as bent officers. The character was based on a real life former head of the Flying Squad, who had been convicted at the Old Bailey on corruption charges in 1977.
The stars, Regan and Carter, are depicted as hard-drinking, womanising, no-nonsense characters from a working class background, who resent the fact that middle class officers get promoted ahead of them. Regan is forthright, blunt, not frightened to speak his mind. He is, in the euphemism of the time, a rough diamond. He frequently clashes with his superiors, often for no other reason than that they're middle class, and hence are in charge of the likes of him. His immediate boss is a public school educated paper-pusher, who wouldn't know one end of a gun from the other, and is - in Regan's view - completely unfitted to command an armed unit.
Regan himself is a hard case, but completely professional.
This movie tones-down the violence and nudity of the previous film, Sweeney! (1977), making this sequel more akin to the television series on which the films were based, and resulting in its release with an AA-certificate (i.e. Restricted to those 14 years and over), instead of the X-certificate (Adults-only) of its predecessor. But the film is nevertheless significantly more violent than the tv series and was re-rated 18 when released on VHS in 1987.
Nigel Hawthorne (who would subsequently be better known for comedy) appears as a bureaucratic senior officer, taking the role usually played in the television series by Garfield Morgan (who doesn't appear here).
As with the previous film, a number of the supporting characters are played by actors who had appeared in the television series, including Lewis Fiander and Frederick Treves.
Following this final cinematic outing for the team, one more series was made for television.