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S.W.A.T. By Matt Singer
S.W.A.T. is the fourth movie starring Colin Farrell released in 2003 and the second after The Recruit in which he plays a trainee under the supervision of a witty, wizened old veteran played by a distinguished actor of significant badassitude. Like The Recruit, Farrell’s character and his fellow students go through a grueling training program before graduating to the big leagues. That film’s success was destroyed by a trailer that gave the entire plot away to such a degree that “nearly every moment of the film [was] predictable.” While S.W.A.T. is almost equally formulaic, right down to the treacherous team member and the forgotten minor character from Act One, I enjoyed it. S.W.A.T. is a B picture from top to bottom (Interesting how when you think about it, B pictures are now the biggest and most expensive Hollywood makes nowadays) but it is as efficient and successful as the police officers it showcases.
Farrell’s Jim Street is a talented S.W.A.T. officer who disobeys the wrong orders and loses his coveted position, though not his penchant for unending physical exercise and target practice. After six months cleaning guns and boots, he gets a second chance courtesy of Sgt. “Hondo” Harrelson (Samuel J. Jackson), who is charged with assembling a new S.W.A.T. team that also includes SportsNight’s Josh Charles, LL Cool J (still on the long road to redemption after Rollerball) and Michelle Rodriguez as the requisite feisty female who everyone underestimates, although in this film, she never really does get that one moment to prove everyone wrong. Roughly half the running time is about their training, but the scenes don’t lag thanks to a script by David Ayer and David McKenna that has the legitimacy of a documentary about S.W.A.T. and performances from the cast that are uniformly convincing as top cops (Taking notes Ben and Jen?)
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When the film does come around to a plot, it’s a good one; a captured European crime lord (Olivier Martinez) spits a vow of $100 million dollars to anyone who frees him from captivity into a television camera, and soon, the entire underbelly of Los Angeles is scheming up ways to get him loose. From there, it’s one setpiece after another as the cops try to keep the bad guy from falling into the wrong hands and then - when he invariably does - getting him back.
Look, this isn’t rocket science, hell it isn’t even Pirates of the Caribbean, but after a long day of work, S.W.A.T. entertained me, never bored me from start to finish, and even suggested a potential future drinking game for the DVD release (For those looking to get started early, take a drink any time Farrell’s American accent slips into his natural Irish one). With your brain left off like your cell phone you’re sure to find numerous charms while ignoring the way it contradicts its own messages about procedure and respect of authority. Jackson continues to be one of the coolest, most commanding screen presences working today, and even with a relatively subdued performance, he’s still one bad mutha. Bad accent aside, Farrell is a potent action star, though he looks a lot geekier without his trademark stubble and Van Dyke.
Five, ten years from now, S.W.A.T. will probably be as well-remembered as the 70’s television show that spawned it, but for the moment, it works.