A Film Review By The Mike
|Rating:RATED PG-13 for lots of bullets and broken glass
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez
Directed By: Clark Johnson
S.W.A.T. is an action film that definitely fits what I call the “Con Air mold”. A director in his first attempt at the big screen takes a star-studded cast and sends them into an explosion filled plot that will no doubt call for an airplane to land on a wide city street. It’s a simple formula that has no real reason that it should work, unless the cast works. And in this case, like Con Air, they do.
Samuel L. Jackson is Hondo, the sergeant in charge of building a crack team of 5 members to represent the LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics Unit. Jackson continues his late trend of being a “cardboard star”, as the real focus of the film is on Colin Farrell as Jim Street, a disgraced former SWAT member whom is, of course, being given a second/last chance. Jackson gets top billing and rank among characters, but Farrell is the focal point of the camera’s eye, and rightfully so. He’s not Hollywood’s newest leading man because he can’t act, that’s for sure.
Hondo eyes Jim from the start, and then somehow finds out about two new trainees worth noting, Sanchez (Rodriguez) who is blacklisted due to her non-male status, and Deke (LL Cool J), who really has no backstory, except that he is cool and fast. A third trainee is interviewed and revoked in a hilarious scene where it is revealed that he is a vegetarian. Along with Hondo’s previous cohorts Boxer (Brian Van Holt, under Jackson’s command as he was in Basic) and McCabe (Josh Charles from Sports Night in a welcome return to noticability) the team is set, and the butt-kicking is taken to the next level.
Once formed the SWAT unit is assigned to transport a French mob lord (Olivier Martinez from Unfaithful) who has offered “One Hundred Meeeeelllllllion Dollars!” to whomever can spring him from custody. This piques the interest of Jim’s former partner (Jeremy Renner, who’s pretty annoying and is by far the film’s weakest link) and any other moneythirsty American in earshot of a TV. In a fun moment while being transported Martinez’s Alex makes a proclamation about American greed that’s one of the more true statements on film lately. The reaction to it from Jim and Boxer is one of the film’s best moments, capturing the team’s mentality perfectly. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the film’s plot. The newly formed SWAT unit, under close supervision by their captain whom hopes they fail, must keep Alex under wraps despite the money hunters that want paid by freeing him. That’s it. There’s no random disc to be destroyed, no secret that must be kept safe, just one bad guy whom our heroes would like to keep in non-free status.
It deserves to be noticed that action plots that lack complexity are being greenlit more often, and having pretty good results, noting this and May’s release of The Italian Job as prime examples. Maybe Hollywood is getting through its Mission Impossible phase (which hit its low point with the ludicrous Fight Club), and is starting to realize that complex plot twists and secret organizations are not the most necessary components of an action movie. These recent movies work because they have a good core, centered on characters that are played by solid actors and well directed and usually fresh action scenes, not on twists and effects. There was a moment in the middle of S.W.A.T. where I groaned at the cliched attempt at a heist, only to have my expectations turned in the next moment by a quasi-original anti-twist. I like that feeling.
S.W.A.T isn’t breathtakingly well written, acted, or directed, but in general it works. When the film was rolling, my eyes and mind were glued to it, and escape from the real world was accomplished happily. From a film like this, that’s all I ask for.