S.W.A.T. Movie Review

When even the dynamic, charismatic, scenery-chomping Samuel L. Jackson seems so bored that he might as well be phoning in his performance, you know your action movie is a lifeless failure.

For the first hour of "S.W.A.T.," an assemble-the-team super-cop movie long on testosterone clichés and short on everything else, there isn't even a plot -- just shopworn stock scenes recycled from 100 other cop movies. Shaky, pseudo-gritty "Cops"-style footage shows fearless tactical teams taking down violent bank robbers in a massive shoot-out! Order-disobeying heroes are chewed out and busted down to menial posts by WASPy, career-minded higher-ups who just don't know what it's like on the streets! Training montages set to grinding, angry-white-boy rap soundtracks that provide zero insight into what S.W.A.T. teams really do! Tons of laughably conspicuous soft-drink and fast-food product placement!

The movie's only capacity for holding one's interest in its first 90 minutes seems to be counting its stupid gaffes in common sense. Why, for example, do police sharpshooters at the robbery fire at a getaway driver through a car's windshield but don't even bother taking aim at a masked gunman standing in the open and firing at bystanders?

Sleepwalking through this cardboard cutout of a movie are Jackson, as a legendary Los Angeles Police S.W.A.T. commander who has returned to the force to train promising officers for elite duty, and Hollywood's pretty-bad-boy-with-one-facial-expression flavor of the month Colin Farrell ("Phone Booth," "The Recruit"), as the rebellious young cop (without any other personality traits) whose position on the S.W.A.T. team is restored by Jackson just "to piss off the captain."

But they don't have much to do other than bark bad dialogue ("Every cop in this department knows we did the right thing!") until a sexy French crime lord -- Oliver Martinez ("Unfaithful"), who wanders aimlessly through the movie until arrested during a routine traffic stop for a broken tail light (now that's action!) -- offers $100 million to anyone who busts him out of prison.

Jackson, Farrell and their team (LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Josh Charles and snarling hottie-tough Michelle Rodriguez) are assigned to provide high security for the prisoner's transfer to the federal pen. Then -- finally! -- all hell breaks loose when a bitter former S.W.A.T. member (Jeremy Renner) tries to take Martinez up on his offer.

When the action does come, its ineptitude makes the heroes look so stupid that this movie could end up giving a bad name to S.W.A.T. programs, the Navy SEALS of city police forces (the name stands for Special Weapons and Tactics). Forget that a decoy convoy of paddy wagons serves no purpose except to make the cops sitting ducks for a huge attack by gangbangers (whose knowledge of the convoy's route isn't explained) -- it never even occurs to these bozos to shoot out the tires of a bad guy's car.

But as dumb as they are, Jackson's team is apparently a whole lot smarter than the rest of the LAPD, which fall, en masse, for yet another decoy when Martinez does escape. This leaves our stars alone to fight a heavily-armed gang (and one "surprise" S.W.A.T. turncoat whose endless unmotivated close-ups give him away early on) as they close off a bridge to land a stolen Lear jet (inexplicably eluding air traffic control radar in this era of terrorism) that is intended to fly the oily villain away.

A testosterone-fueled showdown of gunfire and minor explosions follows, but inept director Clark Johnson (who has such a penchant for randomness that an early montage sequence shows Farrell barfing for no discernable reason) can't breathe life -- or even coherence -- into this finale, which has at least as many plot holes as bullet holes.

Based on a short-lived 1970s TV show that was never all that great to begin with, "S.W.A.T." lives down to its legacy and then some.


Comments

S.W.A.T. Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, August 8, 2003

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