J.D. Lafrance
S.W.A.T. DVD Review


April 3, 2003

Director: Director: Clark Johnson, ,
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, Olivier Martinez, Reg E. Cathey, Larry Poindexter, Page Kennedy, Domenick Lombardozzi, James DuMont, Denis Arndt, Lindsey Ginter, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

S.W.A.T., Special Weapons and Tactics, or Script Weak, Action Terrible as it could also be known. Quite why Samuel L. Jackson persists in choosing these roles is beyond me, but here he is once again playing a wafer thin character, which seems based only his being black and having attitude.

Could it be that Jackson isn’t actually the great actor everyone perceives him to be? Why, these words are blasphemous surely? Can anyone name a fine performance from Jackson that wasn’t directed by Tarantino? Tough isn’t it?

But that’s not why we’re here, S.W.A.T. is the name of our game, and what a disappointing game it is. I feel sure that somewhere along the line Colin Farrell will have to repent for this one.

What we get with S.W.A.T. is a rather long, and extremely stupid action movie highlighting everything that’s wrong with American police – and indeed stupid action movies. The S.W.A.T. team are supposed to be the best, as the tag line suggests “even cops dial 911”, yet they’re specialty seems to rely on shooting hopeless assailants who parade around outside banks indiscriminately firing automatic weapons. Does the fact they have automatic weapons mean that regular cops can’t shoot them? It seems so, as only S.W.A.T. members can repel such firepower.

If all this sounds a little dumb, I should point out one of the deleted scenes included on the disc. Now, with deleted scenes you can generally see why a scene was deleted; yet also see what the makers were thinking in shooting the scene in the first place. Maybe it serves a purpose but just duplicates an earlier scene, or it adds character development at cost to the pace of the film. Not so with S.W.A.T., the deleted scenes are stupid, why they were deleted is obvious, why they were ever filmed to begin with is unclear.

One of the most ludicrous of these scenes, and I could have selected any of them, slots in during the bank shoot-out at the beginning of the film. While the cops are flapping around because the robbers have automatic weapons (“oh how ever will we stop them”) two cops run into a nearby gun store and ask for something that will penetrate body armour. The trusting clerk then hands them a couple of automatic weapons and he is told; “The City will compensate him”.

Firstly, do cops usually run into a gun store when there’s a shoot-out in progress? And secondly, is it that easy to gain high-powered automatic weapons for free, just by wearing a blue uniform?

Of course not, that’s why it’s stupid.

Back to the film; as we haven’t even mentioned the plot yet. Colin Farrell plays ‘Street’, one of the best S.W.A.T. team members ever, and he has a ‘on the edge’ partner named Gamble. In the opening sequence Gamble, disobeying a direct order, shoots a hostage in order to save her life and kill the robber behind her. (I seem to resemble Keanu Reeves doing a similar thing in Speed and being praised for it). Gamble however isn’t praised; he’s thrown off S.W.A.T. and promptly quits.

Street is also thrown off S.W.A.T. and forced to work in the gun cage, where all the burnt out cops work.

In an effort to better the flagging image of the police, some of its more colourful and respected officers are placed back into the precinct to shake things up a little. This is where Samuel L. Jackson comes in, as Sgt. Hondo, in a role that could easily have been filled by Seagal – if it didn’t require quite so much standing up.

In an unprecedented moment of pure cheese, for which the film makes no excuses, Hondo is told that he is to select five members for his own S.W.A.T. team, he picks them, he trains them etc, etc.

I’m falling asleep here.

Naturally Street is one of the members, and thus begins a Police Academy style-training segment of the film, without the amusing sound effects.

All of this dross is intercut with European mob boss Alex Montel arriving in the States to personally whack his uncle. In a Ted Bundy moment he’s apprehended due to a faulty taillight and promptly thrown into a jail cell while his identity is discovered.

It’s then up to the new S.W.A.T. team (who incidentally the Police Captain wants to fail, I would have mentioned that sooner but let’s face it – it was obvious) to escort the mob boss to the federal prison. However, he’s announced on live TV that he’ll pay $100,000,000 to anyone who springs him.

Cue a few hashed attempts at busting him out by more gun-wielding morons who shout “Yeargh” while firing their automatic weapons and standing in the middle of the street. Luckily there were S.W.A.T. members around to dispatch them, or whatever would have happened, how would the police have coped?

It’s not long before a professional attempt is made to bust out Montel, this time led by ex-S.W.A.T. member, and Street’s ex-partner, Gamble.

You can guess the rest.

Michelle Rodriguez shows once again that if there’s a role for a Hispanic gun toting foxy lady, she’s in and Samuel L. Jackson sleepwalks his way to another seven-figure paycheck.

Is there anything redeemable about S.W.A.T.? Well, I can’t think of anything off hand. Even the action sequences are badly contrived. As Gamble escapes with the mob boss in a plane, being pursued by Street driving a limo, the pilots shout to “get him off our ass”, yet then shout to “close the damn hatch” when Gamble opens it to shoot at the limo. They’re pilots, they’d have known that the plane couldn’t take off with the hatch open, so why ask?

As I said, stupid.

Special Features

To be honest at this point I’m beyond caring. The deleted scenes are filled with wonderment at just what the hell were they thinking even filming them. Yet some of the scenes that made into the film are like that.

For what it’s worth, you can watch an anatomy of a shoot-out where the filmmakers say how proud they are of the opening sequence. I guess they’ve not actually seen it themselves. There’s a making of, which may as well be called the ‘Samuel L. Jackson suck up show’ as it consists mainly of gushes about how thrilled everyone is to work with the great man.

The gag reel isn’t funny, but for a comment from Colin Farrell stating how bored he is, but hey, he picked this film – he’s only got himself to blame. If you can bear it, you can watch the short programme on the original 1970’s S.W.A.T. TV series, which just for the record, is awful.

As you can tell this film isn’t particularly good. Nor is it ‘Seagal’ standard bad. They described it in the ‘making of’ as Top Gun meets High Noon – that should tell you all you need to know, they’re pretty bang on with that one. Yet I imagine they think that’s somehow good?

It’s not.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 43%



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