There's plenty of blame to go around, but it should probably start with the script by David Ayer and David McKenna, which starts with your basic bank hostage scenario that can only be solved by (cue music) the S.W.A.T. team. Hotdoggers Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) move into the bank, disobeying orders, and Gamble ends up shooting (nonfatally) one of the hostages. Street gets demoted out of S.W.A.T., while Gamble quits the department entirely, holding a serious grudge.
Cut to six months later and Street is recruited by "old school" S.W.A.T. officer Hondo (Sam Jackson, barely awake) for a new team he's putting together, which also includes LL Cool J, Michelle Rodriguez, Brian Van Holt, and Josh Charles. The reasons for this team are kind of murky, though the phrase "kick ass" gets tossed around a lot. Things get momentarily interesting when French arch criminal Alex (Unfaithful's Olivier Martinez, as unlikely a villain as has ever appeared in film) gets arrested and offers $100 million to anyone who will bust him out, thus necessitating S.W.A.T. to assist in his transfer to a federal prison, but even that development loses steam fast.
Given even one original idea, one honest bit of character development, one half-funny joke, the script would have been halfway enjoyable, though campy. But as seen here, the dialogue is just cliché reheated many times over and simply passing the time between blasts of automatic gunfire.
Your average director, however, given a cast like this, could have taken such poor material and salvaged a passable summer action flick out of it. But Clark Johnson - a regular director for gritty cop shows like The Shield, Homicide, and The Wire but new to the big screen - unforgivably buries the natural charisma of such charmers as Jackson, Martinez, and Farrell and plays it all numbingly straight.
And it's not just the director or screenwriters' fault; pretty much each one of the leads turns in an abysmally lazy performance. Even the normally reliable LL Cool J seems too bored to bother. Only Michelle Rodriguez comes through with any dignity and that's only because she's only called upon to do what she always do: snarl and look tough, which she does. Again.
One expects a certain amount of ludicrousness in a popcorn movie like this, but S.W.A.T. demands far too much. Alex is supposedly an international super-villain wanted in a dozen countries and worth over $1 billion, yet he drives away from a murder in a car whose owner has a warrant out for his arrest, and a busted taillight to boot. The gangsters who heed Alex's call to break him out are sophisticated enough to execute a precisely choreographed raid on a police convoy (which includes the use of antitank rockets, easily available to most street gangs, of course) but can't plan for the possibility of decoys. On their way to a shootout, the S.W.A.T. team has to commandeer a limousine, which turns out to be (apparently) bulletproof, as it's completely riddled with gunfire but nobody inside gets so much as a scratch.
The list goes on, but it's not worth continuing.
The DVD release adds a gag reel, deleted scenes, and two commentary tracks. You also get a handful of featurettes (one is a semi-advertisement that honors the original TV show and its DVD release, another tells you how they landed that plane on that little bridge).
Next time, Colin gets to wear the orange jumper.
Run time: 117 mins
In Theaters: Friday 8th August 2003
Box Office USA: $116.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $116.6M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Original Film, Camelot Pictures, Chris Lee Productions, Illusion Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 86
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Clark Johnson
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson as Sgt. Dan 'Hondo' Harrelson, Colin Farrell as Jim Street, Michelle Rodriguez as Chris Sanchez, LL Cool J as Deacon 'Deke' Kay, Josh Charles as T.J. McCabe, Jeremy Renner as Brian Gamble, Brian Van Holt as Michael Boxer, Olivier Martinez as Alex Montel, Reg E. Cathey as Lt. Greg Velasquez, Domenick Lombardozzi as GQ, Larry Poindexter as Capt. Thomas Fuller, Page Kennedy as Travis, James DuMont as Gus, Denis Arndt as Sgt. Howard, Lindsey Ginter as Agent Hauser