Okay moviegoers, let's be honest with ourselves. This has been a miserable
summer at the movies, hasn't it? With one dreary sequel after another to
disappoint us, it hasn't been much fun. What I don't understand is why the
summer couldn't have been filled with more films like S.W.A.T., an
adrenaline-pumping action thriller that manages to be realistic and fresh
even if it is based on an old TV show that was never particularly good.
Wasting no time, the efficient and effective thriller starts with one of
several good situations in which the S.W.A.T. squad has to be called in so
that they can save the day. The movie has plenty of high energy sequences,
but they are always in the service of the story rather than the other way
Samuel L. Jackson plays a very cool and confident Lt. Dan 'Hondo' Harrelson.
The laid-back Hondo is given a qualified carte blanche to assemble his own
S.W.A.T. team. For it, he chooses Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt), David
'Deke' Kay (LL Cool J), T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), Chris Sanchez (Michelle
Rodriguez) and, finally, bad boy Jim Street (Colin Farrell). It is a
diverse cast and team that delivers the action.
Of special note is the performance by Rodriguez (GIRLFIGHT and BLUE CRUSH),
who actually proves that she can sustain a smile and quite a cute one.
Normally cast as a sullen tough girl with a suspicious grimace, Rodriguez
proves this time that she has a wider range than we've been led to believe
by her previous work. Personally, I'd love to see her in a romance in which
she could be allowed to let her tough swagger be combined with some erotic
heat. She and Farrell look like they might heat up the sheets in S.W.A.T.,
but their intimacy never gets beyond barroom conversations.
Although the dialog is peppered with some classic clich‚s ("Sometimes doing
the 'right thing' isn't doing the 'right thing.'" and "You're either
S.W.A.T. or you're not."), the movie is able to rise way above its level of
predictability. Between the twists you can guess, there are plenty that you
can't. And the action sequences are carefully founded in reality. Never
will you be thinking, "No way!" as you do so often in most cop movies.
Also, the humor is there, but it is natural and not overdone.
Director Clark Johnson, who normally works on television series, seems to
have found the perfect temperature for cooking an action picture. The
result is an edge-of-your-seat film that doesn't tire you out or go on too
long, and it has good characters worth caring about -- or loathing in the
case of a nicely slimy villain, played to the tee by Olivier Martinez, whom
we last saw making Diane Lane's stomach quiver like Jell-O in UNFAITHFUL.
I know I'm tempting fate by wishing this after the abysmal sequel summer of
2003, but I sincerely hope they make another S.W.A.T. This is an ingenious
and fun film that deserves the chance to try to do it as good again.
S.W.A.T. runs 1:51. It is rated PG-13 for "violence, language and sexual
references" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave the film *** 1/2, saying that it was "just a
really good movie." He liked the diversity of the casting. He thought the
story had just the right number of twists and that it was original.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes