out of Five
Running time: 117
Forgettable Friday night thriller that’s short on action set-pieces but compensates with decent characters and performances.
If you didn't know that S.W.A.T. was based on a 70s TV series, you could probably guess because a) someone watches the show about halfway through and it doesn't appear to be made up, and b) because the movie itself plays like two episodes strung together - the pilot, which explains who the characters are and how they get together, and then their first mission.
It’s directed by actor Clark Johnson who cut his directing teeth on episodes of NYPD Blue, Homicide and The Shield, so it’s no surprise that the movie gives equal weight to the character work.
Maverick Weapons Handler
The film stars Colin Farrell (as Jim Street), a S.W.A.T. member who’s busted down to ordinary police work after an incident which leads to the forced resignation of his volatile, trigger-happy partner Brian Gamble (Jeremy Venner). He’s rescued from desk work when team commander Dan ‘Hondo’ Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) is asked to recruit five cops for a new S.W.A.T. team and Hondo likes the cut of Street’s jib.
They’re then sent on their first mission, which involves escorting Evil Drug Lord Olivier Martinez to a maximum security prison. Things are complicated, however, when Naughty Mr Martinez offers "One hundred meeeeeeeellion dollars" to anyone who springs him from police custody, which leads to Kato-like surprise attacks from every idiot with a gun in Los Angeles.
The film in general is short on Big Action Set Pieces, but compensates with decent, likeable characters - the support cast includes foxy Michelle Rodriguez, wise-cracking LL Cool J and Josh 'Hang on, wasn't he in Dead Poets Society?' Charles. Jeremy Renner is also notable as Farrell's ex-best friend turned 'renegade' and does enough here to suggest that he might be better known this time next year.
Farrell is pretty good, though the 12A certificate means that he doesn't get to swear that much and he seems oddly neutered as a result. There isn't a great deal to his character but he has natural charisma in spades, so he coasts through on that. It's Jackson's film, really - he has a lot of fun Sticking It To The Man and generally being his usual likeable badass self.
Martinez is a bit of a joke as an Evil Bad Guy but it's a joke he seems to be in on and he has a few decent lines. There's also a nice Capone-like irony in the way his character is caught in the first place.
All in all, this is predictable, brain-free Friday night action fare, but it's enjoyable enough if you like that sort of thing and a hell of a lot more fun than the upcoming Bad Boys II.