U.S. Release Date: August 8, 2003
Distributor: Sony / Columbia
Director: Clark Johnson
Writer: David Ayer
Producer: Todd Black (co-executive), Louis D'Esposito (executive), Dan Halsted, Neal H. Moritz
Composer: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Jeremy Renner, Olivier Martinez, Colin Egglesfield
Running Time: 1 hour and 51 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, language and sexual references)

Action by the Numbers
by C.A. Wolski

At the outset, S.W.A.T. looks like top grade material, but as the flick limps through its third act it becomes obvious that this is no classic in the making. Based on the 1970s TV show of the same name, S.W.A.T. follows the adventures of a group of elite LAPD officers as they battle bad guys in Los Angeles.

The feature directorial debut of actor Clark Johnson (TV's Homicide) starts off promising with S.W.A.T. officers (not our intrepid band) ending a Northridge-esque bank robbery, quickly dispatching all of the robbers. It is in this sequence we are introduced to Jim Street (Colin Farrell), who is busted out of the elite unit for not following protocol, reduced to checking weapons and shining shoes.

Enter "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), who is given the task of putting luster back into S.W.A.T. by recruiting a hotshot group of young officers including Farrell, L.L. Cool J and Michelle Rodriquez. What follows is the typical recruiting, training and final test scenes with smug superiors finally convinced that the untested group is just what the mayor ordered. And, though familiar territory, it's not unpleasant to watch. In fact, the first two-thirds of the movie is handled so competently, it could almost serve as a primer for would-be action directors.

The movie takes a decidedly southward direction in the final act, which has the team transporting French bad guy Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) out of Los Angeles. Everything should go according to plan, but Montel has offered $100 million to anyone who can break him out of police custody, and for some unfathomable reason, the local news stations (which are pretty bad in L.A., but not that bad) broadcast to one and all. What follows is a series of incidents in which gang bangers and other sundry low lives attack the police motorcade transporting Montel out of the city. The final setpiece, which involves a chase through an L.A. storm drain, a plane landing on a municipal bridge and a fistfight just brings the movie crashing down. And the ending is just plain stupid.

For all of its flaws, S.W.A.T. is not a complete loss, and there isn't too much action movie lunkheadedness. The script is light on characterization, but what we get isn't too bad, though motivations—particularly involving a betrayal by one of the team—are murky at best.

The acting is solid. Samuel L. Jackson, who could give a compelling performance just reading the phone book, is the glue that holds the picture together. You sense he knows this is junk, but he's having such a good time doing it, that we forgive him for it. Colin Farrell, who is making a career out of being the best thing in mediocre pictures, holds true to form. Of the group, Michelle Rodriquez is the most compelling as a single mom who is both tough and sexy.

In the end, S.W.A.T. is just what it is, a second rate action flick, dressed up in a pretty package.

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