Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: "S.W.A.T." is by the Book Crime Thriller

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 126 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

S.W.A.T. (2003)
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, language and sexual references
DIRECTOR:  Clark Johnson
WRITERS:  David Ayer and David McKenna; from a story by Ron Mita and Jim McClain (based upon characters by David Hamner)
PRODUCERS:  Dan Halsted, Chris Lee, and Neal H. Moritz
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Gabriel Beristain
EDITOR:  Michael Tronick
COMPOSER:  Elliot Goldenthal


Starring:  Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, Olivier Martinez, Reginald E. Cathey, Larry Poindexter, and James DuMont

The subject of this movie review is S.W.A.T., a 2003 action-thriller and crime film.  The film is based on the short-lived television series, “S.W.A.T.”  This ABC action-crime drama (Feb. 1975 to April 1976) was created by Robert Hamner and Lee Stanley.  In S.W.A.T. the movie, S.W.A.T. tries to prevent an imprisoned drug kingpin from breaking out of police custody.

When the law gets a hold of Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), billionaire drug lord and arms dealer, Montel offers 100 million dollars (say it in a heavy Al Pacino/Tony Montana accent to get the full effect) to anyone who can free him.  Who you gonna call?  How about the Los Angeles Police Department’s finest – S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics)?

Led by a legendary S.W.A.T. veteran, Sgt. Dan “Hondo” Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), the group includes LAPD’s best, brightest, and toughest: Jim Street (Colin Farrell) a disgraced S.W.A.T. officer Hondo gives a second chance; Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), repeatedly denied admission into the S.W.A.T. program because she is a female; and David “Deke” Kay (LL Cool J), a tough street cop who can run down you and yo mama.

S.W.A.T. is a by the book action thriller that correctly presses all the right buttons except those bothersome story and character buttons.  But the fireworks, explosions, gunshots, and machismo all work, and that’s pretty much all that’s needed to make an successful action movie – one that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve wasted your money as soon as you leave the theatre.  The plot is simple and straight, and the script contains familiar American archetypes:  Jackson’s Hondo is the black mentor to Farrell’s Street, the dangerous young white stud.  Hollywood seems intent on making Farrell a matinee idol whether the matinee wants him or not.

The movie was fun, a pleasant distraction, pleasantly intense, not manically and obscenely intense like Bad Boys II, but intense in a way that lets us get excited about overwrought gun battles.  There’s even an ultra hilarious segment in which an L.A. street gang tries to liberate Montel for his 100 meeeeell-yon dollerz!  There’s no meaningful drama in the story, nothing to make you really care for the characters other than the fact that you’d like to see Street show the department it was wrong for disgracing him.  But this is good film popcorn, one I’d heartily recommend to fans of hardcore action films and one I’ll see again.

Of course, if you want a gritty cop film, something with meat on the bones, there’s always Joe Carnahan’s Narc.

5 of 10

2004 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Film” (Christopher Lee, Neal H. Moritz, and Dan Halsted)

2004 Image Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Samuel L. Jackson)

Updated:  Wednesday, August 07, 2013


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