Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Jeremy Renner, Josh Charles, Olivier Martinez
Director: Clark Johnson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: December 30, 2003

“You know what they say…you’re either SWAT or you’re not.”

Film **1/2

Every once in a while, a movie will arrive on the scene that is not exactly a bad one, but it just seems as a result of bad timing. Such is the case of S.W.A.T., a technically well done reinvention of the 70s television series whose hit theme song was actually bigger than the show. It comes to us from the same producing team of action favorites XXX and The Fast and the Furious.

It goes without saying that the movie has more than a lot going for it. Along side the action, S.W.A.T. also has a topflight cast led by no less than Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell. Another impressive element is that it also happens to be the feature film debut of director Clark Johnson, a veteran of television shows. However, the arrival of S.W.A.T. in the wake of high energy fare such as Bad Boys II is pretty much a flaw in itself. The movie has action and wit to spare, but for some reason I simply wasn’t engulfed like I usually am, and found this one to be a bit too routine.

The heart of the movie involves the recruiting and training of several fresh faced rookies who are being considered for a new SWAT team. Heading up the training is veteran Lt. Hondo (Jackson), who’s been given top authority despite reservations on behalf of the uptight captain (goodness, haven’t we seen this sort of character much too often?)

Of his top listed recruits, the one Hondo has his eye on the most is Jim Street (Farrell), who was once a SWAT team member, but was demoted following a botched rescue assignment involving Street’s partner, who ended up leaving the force as a result. Now working in no less than the police unit gun cage, Street is desperate for a way out, and eagerly accepts Hondo’s offer. Other new trainees include street cop Deke (LL Cool J), Boxer (Brian Van Holt), a wisecracker whose sister just broke up with Street; TJ (Josh Charles), a much cocky crack shot; and Chris (Michelle Rodriguez), who’s never been given a chance on the force because she happens to be a woman.

After going through a number of very elaborate training ops, which offer the movie’s best moments, Hondo and his team are called in for a high profile assignment. It involves the guarding and transport of Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), an international drug lord and gunrunner who’s wanted in over a dozen countries for multiple crimes. The situation gets even more hasty when Alex announces to the media that he will offer $100 million to anyone who will bust him out. Needless to say, all thugs and baddies come out of the woodworks, and the new SWAT team faces its first and greatest challenge.

Although S.W.A.T. does have elements in it that work very well, the movie as a whole is just as by the numbers as it gets. When the central story kicks in involving the captured drug lord and his offer to the public, you know what’s going to follow and there aren’t really any surprises afterward, except maybe for one involving a traitor among the SWAT team, but it does little to juice up the action.

S.W.A.T. is hardly a bad movie. With a cast like this and a certain level of energy that it has, it would be difficult not to enjoy. However, it doesn’t break any new ground as far as action goes. In the end, we feel as if we’ve seen something that we have seen many, many, many times before.

Video ****

Columbia Tri Star ends 2003 with a bang in the form of yet another fantastic disc. The anamorphic picture is as big and explosively good as it gets. Every element, in terms of colors and images are presented in the highest form, as only CTS can deliver. A much terrific job! A full frame version is available separately.

Audio ****

On a personal footnote, this is the first disc I tested on a new home theater system I got, and I was absolutely blown away. The 5.1 mix will hook you in right from the opening shootout action sequence. From that point on, the sound power is so strong it doesn’t even begin to let up. Dynamic range is definitely the case here, as action, dialogue, and some kicking music selections all take first seat in this incredible sounding presentation.

Features ****

Columbia Tri Star has delivered yet another winner of a loaded disc. This Special Edition release includes 2 commentary tracks; one with the director and cast, and the second with the screenwriters and the technical consultant. Also on hand are four featurettes as well as a technical behind the scenes look titled “Sound &  Fury of S.W.A.T”. Lastly, there is a gag reel, deleted scenes, trailers, and filmographies.


Though not as power packed as it could’ve been, S.W.A.T. does have some good touches to make it acceptable, if not totally successful action entry. The cast is good and the action sometimes satisfying, but in the end it just feels nothing short of very routine.