Saturday 14 January 2012

Movie Review: S.W.A.T. (2003)

All bullets and few brains, S.W.A.T. drips with machismo but forgets to add soul. The result is a lot of hardware struggling with a marked absence of software.

Officers Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and his partner Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) of the Los Angeles Police Department Special Weapons And Tactics team help to subdue heavily armed robbers shooting up a neighbourhood in a botched bank hit. Gamble disobeys orders but successfully helps to end the ordeal by audaciously shooting one of the bad guys through the shoulder of a hostage. He quits the force while Street is reassigned to humiliating duties.

Six months later, with the LAPD suffering a reputational crisis, veteran Sergeant Hondo Henderson (Samuel L. Jackson) is brought back to assemble a new SWAT unit. He gives Street another chance, and recruits other misfits including Christina Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) and TJ McCay (Josh Charles). By the time they successfully complete their training, Hondo's unit is called into action to escort dangerous and vastly wealthy international criminal Alexander Montel (Olivier Martinez) to a federal prison. Montel offers $100 Million to anyone who can help him escape, which means that the SWAT team will face a gauntlet consisting of every gang with ambitions to cash in, as well as the threat of traitors from within.

A big screen celebration of the 1970's television show with the famous theme song, S.W.A.T. struggles to establish a reason to exist other than juvenile nostalgia. Beyond the firing and dodging of bullets, none of the characters are provided with even the most rudimentary back story. There is a brief scene of Street's girlfriend (Ashley Scott) leaving him, but otherwise director Clark Johnson is busy with the chases, fights, explosions, stock evil bad guys, and testosterone-fuelled posturing behind face shields and Kevlar vests. The action scenes are functional, but with Johnson's television background clearly exposed, S.W.A.T. even lacks the big screen glitz that would have helped make the incessant spraying of bullets more satisfying.

Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell are mostly grim and stone faced, playing warriors for justice from another era, adequately floating through the movie but failing to find any buddy chemistry. Both Jackson's formidable charisma and Farrell's boyish charm fall foul of the mundane script.

So the end credits roll with the theme song Samuel Jackson (SWAT) by the alt rock group Hot Action Cop, a terrific modernization of the original television series theme song. Looks like it's hot action / jammin' with Sammy L. Jackson indeed; pity that much like the TV series, the theme song is the best thing about the S.W.A.T. film adaptation.

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