Review by Paul Stathakis | 2003

Wow, that was fun. What more could I ask for? Every item on my movie check­list has been checked off. There were deli­cious per­for­mances, believ­able action, no clichés, and a sol­id end­ing. To say that I expect­ed “S.W.A.T.” to exer­cise all of those qual­i­ties would be lying. Even though the movie explod­ed into the­atres on August 2 and is direc­tor Clark John­son’s first fea­ture film, it is one of those rare upbeat cop thrillers that actu­al­ly both­ers to include two impor­tant film fun­da­men­tals: con­tent and characters.

Twen­ty min­utes into “S.W.A.T.”, I made an obser­va­tion — the film puts con­tent above effects. The film kicks off with S.W.A.T. part­ners Jim Street (Col­in Far­rell) and Bri­an Gam­ble (Jere­my Ren­ner) tac­ti­cal­ly infil­trat­ing a bank to bring a hostage sit­u­a­tion to a safe end. But when Gam­ble dis­obeys a direct order by the cap­tain and wounds a civil­ian on nation­al TV, both Street and Gam­ble are tak­en off the divi­sion and placed in a low­er sec­tion referred to as the “gun cage,” where S.W.A.T. mem­bers’ weapons are repaired and polished.

Col­in Far­rell again plays the clever but sar­cas­tic bad boy, but adds more con­vic­tion and force to his per­for­mance. Take for exam­ple an argu­ment between Street and his part­ner in a lock­er room. He yells at Gam­ble, but takes no action. Not even when phys­i­cal­ly assault­ed. That’s what makes him dif­fer­ent, that he can be strong with words, stares, frowns, and tone — as opposed to being aggressive.

The movie’s mis­lead­ing trail­er will have you believe that Far­rell is in anoth­er Recruit-like sit­u­a­tion when that’s not the case. Samuel L. Jack­son plays Hon­do, a hip sergeant who anchors his team around Street (and thanks to Hon­do, Street is placed back on the force.) Oth­er team mem­bers include Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) and Deke Kay (James Todd Smith a.k.a. LL Cool J).

Jack­son has done some sol­id act­ing work in the past, notably in Quentin Taran­ti­no’s famed “Pulp Fic­tion” and “Jack­ie Brown” and he was force­ful in “The Nego­tia­tor.” This is not a “per­for­mance movie,” which is why I assume the cast had a blast mak­ing “S.W.A.T.” Still, for an action flick, the per­for­mances are good and they actu­al­ly mat­ter this time.

The antag­o­nist is played by Olivi­er Mar­tinez, the same French actor who seduced Diane Lane in Adri­an Lyne’s thriller “Unfaith­ful.” Here, Mar­tinez switch­es from seduc­er to a noto­ri­ous arms deal­er who declares on nation­al TV that he’ll pay $100 mil­lion dol­lars to whomev­er gets him out of jail. The Swat team is called in to super­vise Mon­tel’s trans­fer to a max­i­mum-secu­ri­ty pen­i­ten­tiary. “S.W.A.T.” avoids the tra­di­tion­al cop end­ing, where the heroes are giv­en medals for brav­ery. S.W.A.T. offi­cers deal with tough tasks dai­ly — it’s their spe­cial­ty  Some­times their strate­gies work. Oth­er times, they don’t exact­ly go as planned because there’s a dif­fer­ence between train­ing and real time. The dis­tinc­tion is made clear in a bar scene with Street and Sanchez. When asked what the “real thing is like,” Street sim­ply answers, “It’s faster.”


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