SWAT Review

by Bob Bloom (bobbloom AT iquest DOT net)
August 8th, 2003

S.W.A.T (2003) 2 1/2 stars out of 4. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, James Todd Smith a k a LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, Olivier Martinez and Reginald E. Cathey. Music composed by Elliot Goldenthal. Story by Ron Mita & Jim McClain. Screenplay by David Ayer and David McKenna. Directed by Clark Johnson. Rated PG-13. Running time: Approx: 118 mins.

If you're going to make a movie brimming with clichés, it helps to have the foresight to execute it stylishly.

And that S.W.A.T. does. This action-thriller revels in the familiar. Not a frame of film presenting one original idea passes through the projector.

Yet S.W.A.T. feels comfortable, like a pair of old slippers; worn, frayed, but still durable.

Strip S.W.A.T. of some of the rougher language and violence and you have nothing more than a glorified TV series pilot.

This is not a knock on the film. The movie makes no pretenses. It is just a solid, by-the-book police melodrama with characters and situations we have seen dozens of times before on the big and small screen.

The question remains, though. Why doesn't S.W.A.T. belong on the summer junk heap with Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle or Bad Boys II? My theory rests on the film's unapologetic, but successful, attempt to cash in on the memory of its TV predecessor.

When the S.W.A.T. theme blares from the screen in its updated reincarnation, it draws the audience into the film and rekindles some sort of pleasing response.

It doesn't hurt that a cast of strong actors handles the duties of L.A.'s finest.

Leading the team is Samuel L. Jackson as Sgt. "Hondo" Harrelson. There's no finer actor than Jackson when you want to cast that tough leader who also exhibits brashness, wit, humor and street savvy. He has played this type of role so many times of late, that he probably can do the work in his sleep, yet he routinely gives a performance that elevates even the weakest material.

"Hondo's" team consists of the regular archetypes: the hot-tempered and impulsive Jim Street (Irishman Colin Farrell, playing another Yank); the fleet-footed "Deke" Kaye (LL Cool J, now billing himself under his given name, James Todd Smith); the cool and rough Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez)' Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt), brother of Street's former girlfriend; and the suave T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles).
As the formula goes, one of these cops goes bad and helps a recently captured international fugitive in his wild escape plan. If you can't guess the rotten apple by the end of the second reel, turn in your movie-watching permit.

At a tad under two hours, director Clark Johnson -- best known for his role as Detective Meldrick Lewis on the acclaimed TV series, Homicide: Life on the Streets -- maintains a pace that keeps S.W.A.T. caroming from sequence to sequence with the reckless abandon of a Saturday night drinking spree.

It will never be compared to art, but S.W.A.T. satisfies in a gut-filling way that leaves you with a thrill-of-the-moment buzz that should last an hour or two after you leave the multiplex.

Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, IN. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or at [email protected] Other reviews by Bloom can be found at www.jconline.com by clicking on movies.
Bloom's reviews also appear on the Web at the Rottentomatoes Web site, www.rottentomatoes.com and at the Internet Movie Database:

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