Seriously weak, astonishingly tardy.

Released in 2003, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 05 Dec 2003 by Craig Eastman
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There was a time when even the most vapid of action movies had a 'point' in so much that at least the acidic levels of swearing and outrageous violence gave old people something to tut about. Them were the days, eh? No longer, though, as it would seem the new millennium has ushered in an era of 'diet octane' Hollywood non-excess. Gone are the gratuitous and highly-contrived setpiece slayings, replaced by bloodless shoot-outs and startlingly sterile decapitations and the like. Thank god I had RoboCop as a kid...

Anyone hoping for S.W.A.T. to emerge as a balls-to-the-wall extravaganza (and I must admit the trailer had this reviewer expecting something a bit more flashy) is going to be sorely disappointed; it's more The Sponge than The Rock. An incredibly bemused-looking Colin Farrell is Jim Street, a promising young Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team member whose career takes a turn towards boot polishing when his impulsive partner Gamble (Jeremy Renner) tempts him into disobeying an order that results in a hostage getting shot (tellingly for this day and age the silly beyatch isn't even mortally wounded; the heat comes when she sues the city for millions). Busted down to armoury duty, Street is soon offered a chance at redemption by returning S.W.A.T. 'legend' Sgt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) who has been tasked with assembling a crack team of enthusiastic youngsters to restore the department's public image.

Gathering together the most photogenic recruits he can lay his hands on, Hondo coaxes the powers that be into letting Street back in the game, just in time for their first assignment; escorting massively wealthy Euro-scumbag drug dealer Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) to prison. It might have been a routine trip had Montel not made a live newscast offer of $100 million to anyone who could bust him out, but predictably enough things start blowing up all over the shop whilst Farrell et al get to look suitably hard by looking along their M4s with severely furrowed brows. There is of course very little wrong with this in principle, indeed having the heroic central figures essentially on the defensive rather than the offensive could have lead to some suitably tense stand-off action. Unfortunately for you and I what few dots director Clark Johnson has to cope with he sees fit to join in the most lacklustre fashion imaginable.

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As cynical as I am I still believe that a 12A certificate need not mean action without conviction. Apparently oblivious to this, or perhaps just in a script-induced coma, Johnson would appear to have Mary Whitehouse in mind for his audience. True, S.W.A.T. does have the single permissible and now obligatory use of the 'F' word afforded by it's age rating, but other than that there's an almost spectacular lack of interest or energy invested in any one of the few setpieces. Helicopters and armoured cars don't so much explode as fart apart, there's no slo-mo and nobody but nobody shouts "Aaaaaaaah!" whilst firing a machinegun wildly at anything with a pulse.

A proportionate amount of apathy is duly noted on behalf of the cast, primarily Farrell who, talented as he is, gets not a single opportunity to do anything with his character. At all. Jackson too is coming worryingly close to Morgan Freeman levels of "paycheque please" clockwork thespianism, and poor Michelle Rodriguez as fellow officer and token 'hard bird' Chris Sanchez must surely be lamenting her ascendancy to the mainstream. There's no clichéd backstory involving a traumatic incident from anyone's past, nobody allows a fellow colleague to die so that they can feel guilty about it, there's no macho bonding whatsoever and Jackson even misses a golden opportunity or two to utter that old chestnut of "I'm too old for this shit!"

The only reason S.W.A.T. escapes one-star hell is because I genuinely believe someone just accidentally forgot to splice in the excitement during editing, and also the gunfight outside the bank in the first reel is suitably loud. Other than that I really have no reason to recommend this, even to spotty teenagers trying to impress their girlfriends with a vague knowledge of law enforcement weapons and techniques. So vacuous an atmosphere does it create that the movie's crucial point, a betrayal by a team member, comes across about as exciting or unexpected as a rain shower in April.

As an action movie S.W.A.T. is just about as boring as it can possibly get, and as a recruitment video for Los Angeles' finest it manages to make breaking into banks, defusing hostage situations and getting into running gun battles whilst looking really handsome as appealing as sitting in a bath of baked beans. An utterly wasted opportunity.

Craig Disko has awarded this film 2 out of 5 Fab Weasels.

Clark Johnson
Cast list:
Colin Farrel (Jim Street)
Samuel L. Jackson (Dan "Hondo" Harrelson)
Michelle Rodriguez (Chris Sanchez)
LL Cool J (David "Deke" Kay)
Jeremy Renner (Brian Gamble)
Olivier Martinez (Alex Montel)