Saturday, October 23, 2004

Movie Review: S.W.A.T.

United States, 2003
U.S. Release Date: 8/8/03 (wide)
Running Time: 1:58
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, profanity)
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Josh Charles, Olivier Martinez, Jeremy Renner

Director: Clark Johnson
Producers: Dan Halsted, Chris Lee, Neal H. Moritz
Screenplay: David Ayer and David McKenna
Music: Elliot Goldenthal
Studio: Columbia Pictures


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When the television show “S.W.A.T.” debuted in February of 1975, it was a huge hit. Its hour was comprised of action-packed mayhem, between an elite unit (who took care of the situations that were too dangerous for the police to handle) and a vast array of villains. On the other hand, when transferred to the big screen, this subject is hard to keep afloat for nearly two hours. Except for maybe the enthusiasts of the 1970’s TV show, most will find it diffficult to maintain interest in this motion-picture. With that being said, even the die-hard “S.W.A.T.” fans will most likely be disappointed.

S.W.A.T. is the kind of movie that gets the young ones (with accompanying parents if under thirteen) excited about becoming a cop—thinking that the action portrayed in this picture is what police men have "fun" with everyday. However, this film is so far-fetched and exaggerated that by the time those inspired adolescents hit the force, they will be disheartened with the seriousness that accompanies writing traffic citations, directing traffic, and doing paper work. The notion that there is always a constant flow of enthralling and script-worthy action out there on the real job is absolutely preposterous.

Lt. Hondo Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) has been summoned back into the LAPD to piece together his own S.W.A.T. unit. Hondo selects Jim Street (Colin Farrell), Deke Kay (L.L. Cool J.), Boxer (Brian Van Holt), T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), and Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez). This special unit is assigned the task of guarding an imprisoned international drug lord named Alex Montel (Oliver Martinez). While behind bars, Montel managed to make a public statement saying that he would pay $100 million to anyone who could set him free. With that kind of offer, the S.W.A.T. unit has their work cut out for them, because every gang and their uncles want a piece of the reward.

One really cannot expect much out of a film that possesses both the cheesy slogan of “Even cops dial 911”, and the usual lackluster performance of L.L. Cool J. By the way, if you asked Mr. L.L. his name, his answer would be “Ladies Love Cool James”. That is not a name; it’s a poorly constructed sentence. Maybe if good ole’ L.L. put out a decent character role and went by his real name of James Todd Smith (he could even keep the initial thing going on and be J.T. Smith), people could then have some respect for him as an actor. Here, L.L. happens to lay down a fairly done character with an amusing “Laker Purple” line and a nearly notable chase scene. However, he ruined any chance of garnering even a sliver of respect with possibly one of the worst written lines ever, “Tell Daddy how you want it.”

The cleanly shaven Colin Farrell puts out another good performance, which gives him the record for starring in four consecutive films that all hit number one at the box office in the same year (The Recruit, Daredevil, Phone Booth, and S.W.A.T.). Samuel L. Jackson’s role comes off as extremely bland; his lines feel forced and his usual charisma is totally absent. Michelle Rodriguez is in her only doable persona—the tough girl (just as she was in The Fast and the Furious). Josh Charles, who previously starred in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead along with Aaron Sorkin’s television show “Sports Night”, was a complete miscast. Brian Van Holt, who reunites with Samuel L. Jackson after Basic, gives his same humdrum acting—except this time, he adds a mustache. Also added to the dull list of end credits is Larry Poindexter, who plays the asshole boss cliché. If someone were to page through this guy’s list of credentials, his most impressive would be his latest endeavor—a Chrysler car commercial.

The scrambling camera sequences are dizzying, annoying, and more of a distraction than a means to intensify the action. Also, the soundtrack is nothing but loud and obnoxious—that is, aside from the couple of seconds where they actually play the "S.W.A.T." theme song.

No matter what is said, all of the "S.W.A.T." aficionados out there (as well as Farrell’s female followers) will most likely pay to see this unrealistic effort. However, if you never considered yourself a fan of the 70's TV show, then it is safe to say that you can skip this one altogether. S.W.A.T. is an acronym that stands for Special Weapons and Tactics, but in this case, it should really stand for Slow, Weak, and Tiring. (*1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004