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Jim Street (Colin Farrell) is thrown off the exclusive S.W.A.T. team with his partner Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), after they disobey an order during a deadly hostage standoff. Gamble is bitter and quits the force, but for Street, being a policeman is his life and agrees to a demotion, hoping for another chance. When team commander Dan ‘Hondo’ Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) is assigned to recruit five top cops for a new, revitalised S.W.A.T. unit, Street gets his chance, along with Deacon ‘Keke’ Kaye (LL Cool J), Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt) and T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles). The newly trained and highly motivated team is soon put to the test when escorting a dangerous French drug lord Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), who, during a news-televised, high security transfer, screams out a $100 million bounty to anyone who can get him out of custody.

Review by Louise Keller:
A highly enjoyable police actioner, S.W.A.T. relies on charismatic star power, high tension and good dialogue to entertain. So while there are impressive explosions and metal crunching, the story relies on character and dialogue, allowing us to become involved in more than just a superficial level. Inspired by the 70s television series of the same name, the S.W.A.T. team comprises the best of the best, who work together with precision and nerves of steel. But you don’t need to have seen the tv show to enjoy the movie – there’s little to tie them together except for the original catchy musical motif and character names.

Colin Farrell oozes charisma, and we become involved in the story through his Jim Street, who thinks on his feet and uses whatever is at hand, rather than relying on traditional solutions. Street is cool but very human with Farrell offering the same kind of appeal as Mel Gibson back in the days of Lethal Weapon. It’s a winning combination, with the ultra cool Samuel L. Jackson and sultry Michelle Rodrigez, whose attitude alone makes her scenes interesting. There’s something about Olivier Martinez that draws you to him – whether he is playing the charming cad in Unfaithful or the callous, smirking druglord here. Martinez is just plain sexy – even in the orange prison overalls.

From the engrossing opening scenes that take us right into the heart of a hostage drama, through to the film’s exciting climatic conclusion, we are sucked right in. Screenwriters David Ayer (Training Day) and David McKenna (American History X) have structured the screenplay cleverly, so that we get a taste of what life is like in the elite S.W.A.T. division before introducing the human conflict and challenge of being reinstated. There’s conflict not only between Farrell’s Street and Gamble, but also between Jackson’s Hondo and his superior, so that element of having to prove something ripples right up the line. In the apt hands of former actor and television police drama director Clark Johnson, the mix of character and action is superbly executed, and we can forgive some of the incredible plot elements in the film’s climactic moments. Gripping every step of the way with some humour woven into the mix, S.W.A.T. is the thinking-man’s kind of action film.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I don’ think it translates into German or French or Japanese, but the idea of being able to swat the bad guys like flies must have something to do with the creation of police unit whose acronym is S.W.A.T. If it didn’t, it should have. It made for popular television, as one of those tough cop shows that doubled for war movies – except it didn’t need an army (expensive) and it didn’t need a foreign enemy (all overused).

More or less the same eco-strategy is behind S.W.A.T. the movie. Thousands of rounds of ordinance can be fired off, but by fewer characters, and the enemy is a single badass French guy, with handful of thugs. I always wonder how the real badass guys (who surely go to the movies to get a clue on deadly dress code) react to films like this. Do they cheer the bad guy, or do they suspend their moral leanings and empathise with the good guys like the rest of us?

It would have been some help to the screenplay if the producers imposed the 2-hour telemovie time constraints on it, insisting on a screenplay no longer than two commercial hours allows. That is, 1 hour and 40 minutes, give or take a minute. The rest of the 2-hour slot is taken up by advertising slots, in house channel promotions and more advertising slots. That would have chopped 17 minutes off S.W.A.T., which would have been the first improvement, and may have focused attention on some aspects of the script that got away from all the writers, director and producers; aspects that make it predictable, formulaic and at times tediously improbable (hence the desirability of a 17 minute cut). On the other hand, action fans are well served, and as long as you keep chewing that gum, the film will give you a blast.

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S.W.A.T. (M)

CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, Olivier Martinez

PRODUCER: Dan Halstead, Chris Lee, Neal H. Moritz

DIRECTOR: Clark Johnson

SCRIPT: David Ayes, David McKenna

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gabriel Beristain

EDITOR: Michael Tronick

MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal


RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 27, 2003

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