Movies on release
December 05, 2003
S.W.A.T.: Starring Colin Farrell, Samuel L Jackson, LL Cool J, Michelle Rodriguez, Olivier Martinez. Director: Clark Johnson.
It’s been quite a year for Colin Farrell, the former Ballykissangel star an ubiquitous presence on the silver screen during 2003 in what seemed to be a new film every month.
In fact, it’s only been five movies, with the hard workin’, hard playin’ Farrell ranging from costumed super villain to CIA recruit to sniper victim to lowlife Irish criminal. He rounds off a busy term at the box office as a member of the Special Weapons And Tactics team who are top of the cops on the mean streets of Los Angeles.
After a trigger-happy decision during a hostage situation, Jim Street (Farrell) has been demoted. But he’s offered a way back into S.W.A.T. uniform by Dan “Hondo” Harrelson (Samuel L Jackson), who has been assigned to recruit and train five top-notch cops for a new unit.
With the ‘veteran officer’ and ‘young hothead’ roles sorted out, the team is given that all-important box office ethnic mix with Latino single mum Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) and black dude Deke (James Todd Smith aka LL Cool J).
After some arduous training, they’re ready for action. Which is handy, as international fugitive drug lord Alex (Kylie’s boyfriend Olivier Martinez) is arrested and promises live on TV a $100 million bounty to anyone who can free him from police custody.
Quite rightly, the police feel this could create a few problems, and it’s up to the S.W.A.T. unit to escort the smirking playboy baddie out of town and into the safe confines of a federal prison, pursued by a small army of mercenaries keen to collect the reward.
S.W.A.T. is a solid action-thriller that sticks closely to its TV roots (it was a 13-episode American TV series in 1975). It has a competent, if uninspiring, paint-by-numbers approach to plot and characters, and moves along in speedy fashion. It managed to register a $37 million opening weekend in the States in August, although perhaps that was because it had a French villain.
Where it does do well is in its action sequences. After the fads for high wire martial art moves and expensive special effects, S.W.A.T. offers physical manoeuvres that you believe could happen, that would be within the reach of highly trained police officers. Well, nearly.
It’s still not ‘real life’ amid all the stunts, car chases and shoot-outs, but it’s closer than a lot of other action films have managed. At least director Johnson made an effort and didn’t let the actors take second billing to the explosions budget.