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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