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  • Writer's pictureKen B Wild

The Sweeper Review: May Not Contain Actual Sweeping

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

Dir: Joseph Mehri

Release Date: 1996

“After surviving the massacre of his family, a boy grows to be a violent cop and is approached to join a vigilante faction holding information about the killers”

Richard Pepin and Joseph Mehri, as the PM Entertainment Group, were responsible for some of the most outrageous DTV action flicks of the 90's featuring a veritable who’s who of favourites such as Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, the always sexy Cynthia Rothrock, the outrageously proportioned Anna Nicole Smith, the perma stubble of Lorenzo Lamas, the lovely hair of Joe Lara and the awful accent of Gary Daniels.

These guys have probably blown more cars up than you’ve ever been in such was their proclivity back in the day with this film being a case in point. Check their films out as they are usually rubbish but always hugely entertaining.

Jeff Fahey is a cop. A good cop. Called Dale. Dale is driving his squad car, chatting shit to his partner and has his son, Mark, in the back. Mark appears to be around 15 years old and wants to be a cop when he grows up. Dale’s partner says he should watch Sesame Street (totally misjudging age-appropriate TV for a teenager) and go to Dental School so he can afford an Aston Martin (Mark doesn’t know what one of those is). For some reason, the partner also states that Mark doesn’t even have a schlong yet but before we get any further into that, they arrive at the pier and see some suspicious activity.

The suspicious activity comes in the form of 3 guys dressed like Pimps from Starsky and Hutch. The partner gets some attitude so Dale joins them which turns out to be a bad idea. Huggy Bear (not actual character name) tells him he is a dead man walking. His life is over.

Wax is gonna fix your ass like a broken record”, he says which I think is another threat and they have a little scuffle before Dale can draw his weapon. One of the pimps jumps in the cop car and gets the Hell outta there. WITH MARK IN THE BACK! Dale jumps on a motorcycle and gives hot pursuit doing a wheelie. Either this pier has a rule of leaving your keys in the ignition of all vehicles or people are just forgetful. This is the first of many chases and it is amazing.

The pier is packed with people and stalls seemingly selling mainly cuddly toys, popcorn, drinks and fruit and these two lunatics are about to tear the place up good and proper. As is customary for a good chase down a pedestrianised area, people often hesitate and do a little shimmy as they face down the car while they decide which way to dive. This happens so many times I lost count. One thing I did go back and count though was the number of people who went over the bonnet/hood of the cop car. 16! This guy hit 16 people and sent them over the car! Others were clipped but 16 people actually rolled over the car. Amazing stuff. Add to that 100+ cuddly toys being thrown up into the air, 1000+ pieces of fruit being knocked over and popcorn and drinks being hurled upwards at every opportunity to show the panic. Dale meanwhile is still doing frequent wheelies on the bike like he’s trying to impress people and, by the look of his camera angle, he is also running over people. Dale then stands up on the motorbike and leaps onto the roof of his own cop car! Dale is clinging on for dear life, the bad guy is still hitting everything he can and Mark is still in the back shitting himself. I have no idea how long this pier is but they carry this on for another couple of minutes, destroying every toy stall, fruit stand and food and drink vendor in town! They finally reach the end of the pier and, in a stunt shown several times, Dale leaps away from the car as they both hit the water. The car sinks, obviously, and Dale dives down to rescue Mark. He leaves the other guy to just drown which I guess is fair enough. That is the first 8 minutes of the film. What a bloody opening! And we’re not done yet, folks. We cut straight to Dale’s house to meet the rest of his family.

Teresa is maybe a year younger than Mark I would say and she is wearing flared jeans and cranking up the stereo to play some kind of Disco Funk tunes (I swear this film was made in the 90s) while doing some shit dance that no kid ever did on their own in their room. Mark is setting the table for his mother who shouts to Teresea to turn the music down (she turns it up instead, the little bitch), tells Mark to wash his hands before dinner and hears Dale on the phone asking someone for protection. She is worried and asks a lot of questions, “Are you looking for that address book again?”, which would suggest he has looked for it before and has either never found it or found it and subsequently lost it again. Silly Dale. She then accuses him of being on the take. He isn’t.

“Who’s after us?”

Nobody”, he blatantly lies.

You’ve killed people”, she says surprisingly.

I’ve killed criminals”, he confirms. This bullshit is interrupted by the front door being smashed in, someone quipping, “Trick or Treat”, and hitting Dale in the face with a shotgun stock. More quick fire stuff along the lines of Dale being ‘told not to talk’, ‘shut up bitch’ and ‘where are the kids?’. Mark hears the commotion and shits himself for the 2nd time. Dale’s wife runs and get a shotgun blast to the back for her efforts. Dale himself is then blasted to death on the sofa and some henchmen are ordered to get the kids. Ever the protective brother, Mark has just hidden himself leaving his sister to utter the only line she gets, “Oh my God!”, before she is shot dead in her bedroom. I know I said that Mark had hidden but he is found just sitting on the bathroom floor and crying a bit. In walks the boss of these goons and he crouches down for some mind games.

My name is Christopher and I’m the man who has just killed your whole family”, he says in case Mark was unaware of what has been happening. Mark says nothing at all throughout this entire scene which I think we are supposed to assume is defiance but he looks like he is still in the process of curling one off in his shorts. He glances at Christopher’s gun.

You want my gun? Steel balls already? At your age?”. Quite surprising he mentions this as Dale’s partner earlier assured us all that Mark doesn’t even have a schlong yet. Well, Mark doesn’t take the gun when offered and fails to shoot Christopher which makes him retract all of that admiration of his balls, in fact,

You don’t have any balls!”, he says. “Ball-less”, he adds, in case Mark didn’t understand the concept. He then shoots Mark in the face.

White screen.

We rejoin and some old woman is on the screen asking if we remember Melissa. Nope. Not a fucking clue. Turns out, she is Mark’s Grandma and she is talking to Mark who is in a coma but amazingly shows no physical signs of injury.

You had such a crush on her last time you visited”, she continues. “When she found out about what happened, she begged to come and visit you. I think she likes you too”. I still have no idea who Melissa is or why she keeps hanging around with Mark’s Grandma. Nor do I have any idea why his Grandma is trying to act matchmaker to coma victims but no time for that as Mark opens his eyes and say,

What the fuck are you talking about, Grandma, you stupid bitch? And tell that God damned whore Melissa to get the fuck outta here!”.

Of course he doesn’t.

He doesn’t say anything at all, we just cut to C. Thomas Howell waking up in a seedy apartment and accept that this is Mark when he is older, still suffering no scarring at all from a point blank gunshot to the face.

Once he’s up, we see the kind of guy he has become. He’s out there with long hair, a goatee beard and wearing bleached jeans, a white t-shirt and leather vest combo with a chain (originally thought it was beads) and shark tooth around his neck. A classic renegade cop look. He’s down at ‘Tony’s Fish Market’ which turns out to be quite a nice looking restaurant that could probably do with changing its name, and he’s meeting Melissa who has grown into a beautiful woman. We quickly learn that they have a son together but are separated due to the classic tale of Mark being obsessed with ‘the job’.

Let’s get back together”, he suggests.

You can’t ask me to watch you die!”, she points out, which is just one of literally millions of things he didn’t ask her. Anyway, she is now in a relationship with Elliot who is the manger of the restaurant (we never find out who or where Tony is. My guess is he’s got Mob connections and is using the restaurant as a front) who has taken the son out for a walk. The kid is about 9 or so and he and Mark have a montage of fun down at the stalls and amusements before we get back to business.

We’re on a case. Mark is actually a bit of a dick and mostly quite an unlikeable character. There is a new female cop acting as a decoy on a robbery case where the perp approaches females from behind at an ATM and apparently also stabs his victims after taking their money. This all seems like a good excuse to be obnoxious, patronising and even throw in a little sexual harassment for her to help calm those nerves. Mark’s partner assures her they will be right behind her and she is safe but that turns out to be total bullshit as they just stay where they are and watch her through binoculars. After a false alarm, it turns out that a guy in his dad’s suit is the guy they are after. The female cop hits him in the face and Mark’s partner gets stabbed. Looks like we have another chase on our hands and Mark sets off on foot (though a chase on their hands would have been great) to get the sonofabitch. It’s rather a long chase that somehow ends up on rooftops even though there wasn’t an awful lot of climbing from either of them. Mark loses his gun in the first scuffle after catching up with the guy and off they run again, very close behind each other for some parkour practice. Once cornered, the bad guy in a big suit allows us to see how shit Mark is at fighting before getting some rope wrapped around his neck and Mark jumping them both off the building. The fall is halted by the rope which I think would probably have decapitated the guy but he merely dies from a broken neck. Mark climbs back up and has a cigarette. Sleeping off a strip club visit (no nudity from the dancers for some reason), we are party to the unfunniest answer machine message ever from Mark himself which is quickly forgotten by his Captain who tears 50 shades of shit out of him in the message he leaves. All Police Captains have to be furious, that is kind of a role requirement, but Mark’s Captain is the angriest Captain since Jack Slater’s in Last Action Hero and shouts each and every line like he was either deranged or on the brink of a major coronary. I really hoped we’d get to meet him later but, sadly, not this time. For the record, I shall incorrectly credit Carl Weathers in the role.

Mark, now partnered with the female officer, is back out on a case which takes them to a 1hr photo shop to look at some suspect images. They find the people quite easily (I guess they would be heading back for their photos) being a long haired guy with a bandana, a woman and a child.

Did you take these photos?”, demands Mark,

It’s a free country. I’ll take pictures of whoever I want. Fuck off!”, is the response.

Mark smashes the guy’s head off the nearest concrete pillar. Now I thought that it was because the guy hadn’t used ‘whomever’ in his previous sentence but I think it may have to do with the photo content as Mark tells us more.

You piece of shit. She’s 6 years old and naked.” Somehow, this guy is still pretty defiant about the whole thing,

Fuck you cop! She’s my stepdaughter!” With his Defence resting there, they have a big old punch up and smash through a table of t-shirts. What if this stall was owned by a guy who used to sell them down on the pier but his stall and entire stock was destroyed by a car chase all those years ago during which time he was sent flying over the car itself? Traumatised by this, he pledged never to put himself in harms way again for the sake of his wife and kids. What if?

Troubled cops aren’t the only ones haunted by the past you know. Mark’s partner pulls Mark away from the guy, calls him an idiot and shouts police brutality across the Mall.

At a bar, Mark is chatted up by some annoying, drunk bitch and they go back to hers to talk some of the most mind-blowingly inane and irritating dialogue in recent memory. You could never guess what their subject of choice is. Never. She has a theory about breakfast cereal you see and nothing is more arousing than discussing that after dimming the lights and putting some sexy music on. She concludes the bullshit after what seems like hours by saying that if Mark can remember and sing the theme tune to the cereal commercial, she’ll give him a blow job. Guys love a challenge and, naturally, he is about to oblige when the lights come on and in walks Ed Lauter who you will recognise from shit loads of things without being to name a single one. He also looks a bit like my old boss. He is a guy called ‘Molls’ and he offers Mark a proposition that thankfully doesn’t involve a cereal based build up. Once in there’s no way out apparently and you have to wear a suit. Mark has a dream that night that is mostly of flashbacks of his family’s deaths, including bits we got to see but he didn’t. Teresa even gets to say, “Oh my God!”, again before she is shot dead again (Jane Silvia, who played Teresa, has no other credits on so I hope she got paid for the flashback scene as well). Mark is picked up in a limo – he is kind of wearing a suit but he’s still got that white t-shrt and jewellery look about him – and he is dropped off at a huge mansion where a tuxedo and black tie party is in full swing. Molls introduces him to Rachel and then walks him to somewhere more private to finally get down to some sort of plot. They have a club, a fraternity if you will, called ‘J.I.’, which operates above the restraints of normal Law Enforcement and is secretly financed by the federal government, has many factions across the USA and they only recruit cops with a minimum of 9 service kills. Mark has just hit his 9 (which shows the efficiency of their intel) and they tapped him up immediately. The chairmen of the local fraternity are introduced as Mr Wax and Mr Foster (who don’t get another scene) and they just kind of stand there looking smug. Mark doesn’t buy this BS so, to convince him, Molls shows him to a cupboard just off his dining room where the child abuser guy Mark beat down in the Mall is sitting, tied to a chair. Released on a technicality apparently so Molls offers Mark the opportunity to shoot him. After Mark declines, Molls shoots the guy 4 times and seems to get the message across that it is serious. When pushed for more info, Molls reveals that J.I. stands for Justice Incorporated! They all look pleased with that and Mark leaves.

They’ve set Mark up in a luxurious home in the hills with a pool, full arsenal and 3 sports cars in the garage. Molls yet again just turns up in the house (this will now be a common theme) and hands him a file on the Concrete Lions who are a criminal gang he wants Mark to take down. Wasting no more time, we head straight to their headquarters where they spell out their entire business plan (for our benefit) regarding selling drugs to schoolchildren, which is bad and wrong (badong) and a shipment of high-tech weaponry from their friends in Cuba (hopefully won’t affect our movie pitch funding).

We meet Doug – credited as Grubb on IMDB – and, look who it is! Sheriff Sam Tyler from Jack Frost! I’m not entirely sure, and it certainly isn’t mentioned, but I am guessing that this could have been Sam Tyler’s undercover operation that got him that Snowmonton promotion. Think about that in your own time because we jump to what looks like a school chemistry class with lots of smoking conical flasks and tubes while Mark, apparently heading to class in slo-mo with a couple of long haired dudes, walks in to meet one of the bosses. This boss is still wearing a suit like the school principal and Mark acting like a low level drug dealer rightfully pisses him off. Although Mark arrived without a gun (he was patted down) he somehow gets 2 of them and shoots everyone in the whole room which, at my guess, was at least 15 people. Principal Fuck has run away and Mark gives chase down what must be the longest staircase ever as, when they finally get outside, it is suddenly the middle of the night. We are now set up for our next car chase which has a lot to live up to after that first one. Thankfully, the film pretty much just turns that amp up to 11 and gives us an outrageous chase scene where the bad guy shoots a padlock (with somewhat unbelievable accuracy) off a truck transporting propane cannisters. He then fires wildly out of his rear window and blows them up one by one and causes total highway chaos. Once again, I counted shit for your information. I counted how many explosions were there in this scene (I have included repeated footage which they use) and 34 separate explosions are shown in this chase sequence. 34!!! That’s 34 explosions on a busy highway and not one ‘normal’ cop shows up. Maybe it’s still daytime where all the cop are. Cars explode, swerve, crash, explode some more, jump over other cars on fire only to also catch fire and then not be on fire again until Mark somehow knocks the cannister truck a little bit, balances the final remaining propane cannister on the hood of his car and drives up to the bad guy’s car. This scene is like a task from a video game which you can almost certainly not complete for around 30 attempts, finally achieve and then can never manage again. He drives into the bad guy’s car, the cannister leaps into the other car, Mark shoots it and gives us the 35th and final explosion of the chase. Phew! Thank goodness there will be no repercussions or anything. There really aren’t. When Mark returns home after a hard day killing people and blowing shit up, he finds Molls and Rachel by his pool cooking some steaks on a barbecue. Molls even congratulates Mark on his efforts and tells him he is off to Mexico with Rachel to intercept Doug/Grubb (?) on his meeting with the Cubans regarding the weapon we briefly heard about earlier.

What is this? This is a lot of money”, asks and answers Melissa when Mark turns up with a paper bag full of cash before he mumbles some mysterious shit and then just leaves on his road trip. It is hot in Mexico so Rachel strips to her bra. She is clearly in a sexy mood as she asks if he wants to make love. He is just in a normal, bad mood and declines the offer and messes with his gun (not a euphemism) even when she removes her trousers and goes for a shower. Having correctly identified every man’s weak point (simply showing some interest), Mark joins her in the shower for a full 60 second sex montage. Thankfully, the meeting between Doug/Grubb (?) and his contact is right outside the hotel they are staying in and, although protected by gates and security, can be seen from their bedroom window. Rachel offers some shit distraction to the armed guard while Mark is already climbing down the gate which he must have seen. Another guard runs towards them and everyone just starts shooting. Remember when Arnie storms the house towards the end of Commando and goes on a killing spree through the garden? You do? Watch that film again as it is far better than this. In fairness, it tries and there is a stupidly high body count of bad guys involving machine guns, shotguns and even a few grenades. I think that first mission proved that Mark is not a man of stealth and he carries that on, saving Rachel’s life and shooting Doug/Grubb dead (or that’s part of his cover). One guy in a cowboy hat does a really bad and unnecessary forward roll and is rewarded by being blasted into the fountain with the shotgun. After this total massacre, I assume Mark and Rachel just climbed over the corpses, went back over the road, checked out of the hotel and left Mexico like nothing had happened.

Molls tells Mark that if he kills one more guy for him, he will tell him all about who killed his family (remember that bit?) which seems to satisfy him. Rachel says that Mark will quit once he gets that info so Molls says she is to kill him if it looks likely. That’s one tough boss right there. Speaking of tough bosses, there’s a confusing but brief sequence heading our way. The other boss (Richman) of the Concrete Lions tells his bodyguard (Marsh) he did some good work, the guy smiles, genuinely pleased with the feedback only for the boss to then stab him to death for no reason at all. Imagine if he had done some bad work, what then? Mark walks in, interrupting this murder, flicks his cigarette onto the floor and straight into a gasoline trail leading to the boss man who is instantly engulfed in flames. We never get to see how the gasoline got on the floor, Mark isn’t carrying a can of it and, unless the boss is always covered in gasoline, it has to go down as random (Health and Safety would have a field day if you were always covered in gasoline! I know some people like to live dangerously but that is insane). When the man on fire (good film) runs at Mark, he takes the only logical course of action. Rather than just sidestep him, Mark turns and runs headlong through the window with the boss in hot (ha) pursuit. They fall through the roof of a parked van and somehow Mark just walks away and back to Rachel in the car. What the Hell was that all about? No idea of course and it doesn’t really matter. Molls tells Mark he has one more job for him which Mark believes even though he said that last time. After a shower, Rachel has let herself in again and they have a chat about just getting away, about death and ends with her saying “No questions, just the job”, which seems to make sense to Mark at least.

Slow motion walking now as Mark, Rachel and a couple of other guys walk in a line through some double doors. They are all wearing suits and sunglasses and Mark is wearing a long leather trench coat. They clearly mean business and they enter a room which looks like a hotel lobby with some small, folding tables set up to look like a gambling house. Lots of guys are playing cards on assorted tables and some of them are also wearing sunglasses. There is money in loose piles and cigars are being smoked. Mark and his new friends open fire immediately and money flies everywhere, tables overturn and people are killed. WAIT! Isn’t that Dale’s partner at one of the tables? Yes. These are all cops! What are the chances? Mark wrestles one of the guys to the floor but can’t shout, “Hold your fire!”, quickly enough to stop them shooting everyone.

He runs to his dad’s partner who quips, “Told you you should’ve gone to Dental School”, and dies.

What a guy.

All those years have passed, and he still remembers one pointless chat out of everything. Mark’s new friends announce their intentions a bit too loudly,

“Let’s take him down”,

“Let’s dust him”, which Mark hears and shoots them both. Rachel tells him he wasn’t supposed to make it out alive, Mark says,

Do what you gotta do”, and leaves. We never see Rachel again.

Grandma is back and looks identical to when he was younger apart from having her hair down and looking like a Native American Shaman. She also answers Mark’s questions with sort of riddles, tells him his father was a good cop and insists that his father, “wouldn’t join them!”. She then tells Mark to get back with Melissa like she is on some sort of commission, but he insists he has something to do first and leaves her alone in a field to drink her tea. What does he have to do? Put a bandana on and get to Molls’ house, that’s what! He does his usual thing of running around shooting everyone without taking any hits himself. Another count for you here, Mark kills 15 armed guards at Molls’ house before Molls runs him over and sends him over his car and sets off for the final chase of the film. The precedent has been set for chases already so they must have been wondering what the Hell they were going to do for this one. Plenty more explosions are on the menu and things blow up frequently and for very little reason. Molls gets on the radio and gets a guy on the line who just so happens to be flying his bright yellow crop-duster style biplane directly overhead. He tells him to come and get him which I guess means he has to land on the freeway. As is always readily available, there is a large fuel tanker driving on the freeway which Molls finally gets to jack-knife and have innocent people drive straight into it. This results in the biggest explosion of them all, it’s like an atomic bomb. We get to see it a couple of times from many different angles and it really is quite spectacular. Mark decides, in order to make it through and continue his chase, he will drive directly at the burning tanker, ducking down for impact and shaving off the entire roof of his car like in A View to a Kill. Mark sits back up and he’s off again through the flames. Molls meanwhile has climbed aboard the plane which has landed on the freeway as instructed and they are now taxiing back ready for take-off. With Mark hanging from the wheel! They take off while he is climbing up to get them and they are now ready for the showdown in the sky. Now, as a non-henchman-pilot, I would likely have been trying to shake this guy off the plane before he got to my boss but, this guy waits until Molls is very easily hoisted from his seat and is struggling with Mark on the wing before he starts his crazy, erratic, flying. This is quite a long, drawn out scene considering they are just kind of holding each other on the wing but I suppose it’s a pretty dangerous stunt, so I’ll cut them some slack. Suddenly, it’s all over and Molls just falls off the plane to his death. All done. No more.

Epilogue: Mark appears to have got off scott free from any investigation into his multiple murdering and exploding actions and is back with his son for a visit.

His son asks, “Can Mum come too?”, and she says she’d love to which prompts Mark to ask the question,

“What happened to the restaurant?”.

I hate fish”, is her response.

Mark repeats this, they all laugh and the film ends.

Right, let’s sum up what has just and what has not just happened.

Mark survives being shot, point blank, in the face without any visible injuries. Shot by a man he can clearly identify and even knows his name is Christopher. Never mind, we never see Christopher again and Mark won’t even bother to track him down even when he does become a cop.

The name Wax is mentioned at the start by Huggy Bear and then the character himself is introduced to us later in the film. This is never referenced, and Wax and Foster never appear again or seem to be bothered about Molls being killed even though this could blow their operation wide open and they presumably had Mark’s father killed for far less all those years ago.

Does Mark just forget all about the J.I. even though he was told it was nationwide and a real thing?

How come no real cops were involved in any of the action?

How many people have to be killed and how many things have to publicly explode before they get called out?

In fact, Dale and his partner are the only uniformed cops in the entire film! It’s little wonder that the J.I. feel the need to help out with that level of staffing.

Where did Rachel go? Did she stay with the J.I.? Is she still standing in that hotel lobby?

Does Mark come clean to Melissa about the whole thing or does he just bottle it all up and she’ll have to watch the movie?

What becomes of Elliot? Were his managerial skills so specifically only suited to the fish-based industry that Melissa had no choice but to leave him due to her suppressed hatred of fish?

Where the fuck is Tony anyway?

Where did Molls land when he fell out of the plane? I guess we’ll never know the answers but I am open to suggestions.

Enjoyable, cheesy, violent, tits, slow motion, explosions. What is not to love?

Watched on YouTube. Get involved.

FAVOURITE CHARACTER: Mark’s Police Captain. We never get to see him and only hear from him once but he is the finest, and angriest Police Captain in many a film. Played by Carl Weathers (not actually played by Carl Weathers)

FAVOURITE MOMENT: Multiple people being run over in the opening chase.


Dale’s partner: “He hasn’t even got a schlong yet”

FAVOURITE DEATH: Mr Richman inexplicably bursting into flames and diving through the window.


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