When a movie is bogged down with obvious plot twists and standard action cliches, it tends to
be bad. "S.W.A.T." employs all of these hinderances, but manages to be a moderately entertaining romp through L.A..
"S.W.A.T." is based on a 70's television series of the same name, and maybe the grittiness of
the 70's cop drama genre would have helped it's motion picture offspring. Instead, director Clark Johnson (of TV's "Homicide:
Life in the Street") uses the familiar MTV method for action. He uses quick cuts and clunky dialogue to accentuate the
explosions and gunfire. This tried and true brand of action is sure to bring the film a hefty box office, but some originality
and better writing would have made me bother to care.
The film does have great stars in Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson, but neither really goes
any farther than what is expected of them. Within the first twenty minutes of the film, you know exactly what
to expect from their two characters. This leads to a predictability that caused my interest to wane towards the end.
The film opens on a bank robbery perpetrated by ski-masked crooks with machine guns and body
armor. They hold hostages with paranoid guns raised. The S.W.A.T. unit is called in, complete with Jim Street
(Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), partners with a hankering for playing cowboy. When Gamble makes a decision
that places him and Street out of S.W.A.T., the duo part on bad terms (resulting in a smashed mirror).
Street works his way up again starting in the weapons and ammo cage, where he catches the eye
of Sgt. "Hondo" Harrelson. Hondo is brought back into S.W.A.T. after three years out of the unit to create his
own top-notch team. He takes Street out on the recruiting trips where they woo Deke Kay (LL Cool J) and Chris Sanchez
(the eternally sassy Michelle Rodriguez) to join current S.W.A.T. officers T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles) and Michael Boxer (Brian
Van Holt). Street soon learns that he gets to be the last piece of the puzzle, much to our lack of surprise. The
team then embarks on training, where they learn to humiliate their superior and cop pundit, Capt. Fuller (Larry Poindexter).
They become a team and prove themselves to be the go-to team for whatever mayhem arises within the city limits.
Mayhem is provided by drug dealer Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), in the United States to kill
a relative and detained after he is stopped for a borken tail light. He soon learns his fortune cannot buy off officials,
so he declares he will pay one hundred million dollars to whoever can free him. This provides a good premise, but the
film fails to capitalize on it.
At first, a few groups attempt to free him, but they're thwarted by the men wearing kevlar vests.
Then a new and highly trained group takes the task of freeing the wealthy scalawag. The efforts of every other group
stops altogether. The plot device would allow for countless groups to attempt to free Montel, but instead the plot chooses
to shift focus onto one group for obvious reasons. The bitterness between the law and the renegade group is supposed
to thrill and capitivate the viewer, but how much more captivating would it be for four or five groups to descend upon a single
team of L.A. best law enforcement officers? The groups would be simultaneously clawing at each other while trying to
grab Montel. All this would have set up a grand action scenario, but what seems an obvious choice to me was passed up
by the writers for a simpler conflict.
Also at fault for a lackluster film is clunky dialogue. Any writer fresh out of college
could have written the script, laced with lines lifted from all the other cop movies and television shows ever made.
Characters say lines like, "This is what we trained for." They smile and joke with each other, but any dynamic between
the stars that could have been realized is lost amongst the sometimes bad writing. There are a few times when the writing
is awful, but the bulk of the film never makes it past an average grade.
None of the actors particularly shine, although the hero clearly is Street. Farrell doesn't
really do anything particularly wrong. He just fills in the thinly drawn lines of the character. Any of the flair
that he showed in his earlier films is missing.
Sam Jackson, the other big name on the poster, pulls a role that would have fit nicely with
his other average film roles in movies like "Rules of Engagement" and "Basic." He's a better actor than he shows in
"S.W.A.T.," but he can't do much with the lines he is given.
The film does entertain at points. Shoot-outs and mild chase sequences amuse, but nothing
stands out as special. You can see the same action ideas done better in other movies. In the end, S.W.A.T. isn't
awful or even very bad, it's just harmless. It's nothing to write home about, but it's not a bad way to spend an hour
and a half or so.