SWAT Review

by Steve Rhodes (Steve DOT Rhodes AT InternetReviews DOT com)
September 10th, 2003

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): *** 1/2

Okay moviegoers, let's be honest with ourselves. This has been a miserable summer at the movies, hasn't it? With one dreary sequel after another to disappoint us, it hasn't been much fun. What I don't understand is why the summer couldn't have been filled with more films like S.W.A.T., an adrenaline-pumping action thriller that manages to be realistic and fresh even if it is based on an old TV show that was never particularly good.

Wasting no time, the efficient and effective thriller starts with one of several good situations in which the S.W.A.T. squad has to be called in so that they can save the day. The movie has plenty of high energy sequences, but they are always in the service of the story rather than the other way around.
Samuel L. Jackson plays a very cool and confident Lt. Dan 'Hondo' Harrelson. The laid-back Hondo is given a qualified carte blanche to assemble his own S.W.A.T. team. For it, he chooses Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt), David 'Deke' Kay (LL Cool J), T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) and, finally, bad boy Jim Street (Colin Farrell). It is a diverse cast and team that delivers the action.

Of special note is the performance by Rodriguez (GIRLFIGHT and BLUE CRUSH), who actually proves that she can sustain a smile and quite a cute one. Normally cast as a sullen tough girl with a suspicious grimace, Rodriguez proves this time that she has a wider range than we've been led to believe by her previous work. Personally, I'd love to see her in a romance in which she could be allowed to let her tough swagger be combined with some erotic heat. She and Farrell look like they might heat up the sheets in S.W.A.T., but their intimacy never gets beyond barroom conversations.

Although the dialog is peppered with some classic clichés ("Sometimes doing the 'right thing' isn't doing the 'right thing.'" and "You're either S.W.A.T. or you're not."), the movie is able to rise way above its level of predictability. Between the twists you can guess, there are plenty that you can't. And the action sequences are carefully founded in reality. Never will you be thinking, "No way!" as you do so often in most cop movies. Also, the humor is there, but it is natural and not overdone.

Director Clark Johnson, who normally works on television series, seems to have found the perfect temperature for cooking an action picture. The result is an edge-of-your-seat film that doesn't tire you out or go on too long, and it has good characters worth caring about -- or loathing in the case of a nicely slimy villain, played to the tee by Olivier Martinez, whom we last saw making Diane Lane's stomach quiver like Jell-O in UNFAITHFUL.

I know I'm tempting fate by wishing this after the abysmal sequel summer of 2003, but I sincerely hope they make another S.W.A.T. This is an ingenious and fun film that deserves the chance to try to do it as good again.

S.W.A.T. runs 1:51. It is rated PG-13 for "violence, language and sexual references" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave the film *** 1/2, saying that it was "just a really good movie." He liked the diversity of the casting. He thought the story had just the right number of twists and that it was original.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, August 8, 2003. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC and the Century theaters.

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