Review: “S.W.A.T.”

During the promos for this cop actioneer came the credit – “From the Producer of ‘xXx’ & ‘Fast & The Furious'”, a tag which has to make one laugh as after all, both were dumbed down clones of far superior products (Bond & Point Break respectively).

That marketing of course refers to Neal H. Moritz whom some label ‘The Quiet Jerry Bruckheimer’ – in the past six years he’s produced around three dozen projects incl. practically every teen movie in the post-Scream market from “Cruel Intentions” & “I Know What You Did Last Summer” to “Urban Legend” & “Not Another Teen Movie”.

True most of the films have been crappy and practically all remakes or reinventions of old ideas but hey, they make money and they look good which is what Hollywood cares about (and every now and then, like ‘Cruel’, it results in a great film).

That said “S.W.A.T.” joins the list as being yet another clone, this time of your average 70’s cop thriller, and yet holds up better than both those aforementioned Vin Diesel flicks. It is in fact the perfect generic Summer movie – one which entertains and captivates for a lot of its run time, its fast, loud and filled with big action set pieces to hide the pathetic attempts at characterisation.

Like all Summer films as well, you’ll forget much of it the moment you walk out the door – this is one of those movies which people don’t remember as its in such middle ground territory its neither too bad to write off or talk about, and yet not good enough to be considered on anyone’s highlight list. For all its whiz bang style its all too familiar in tone, and yet with a smaller budget than most Summer films it still manages to get good bang for its buck and keeps the action more focussed in reality and on procedure than drifting off into CG fantasy mayhem.

For all its predictability, what comes as a surprise is the uneveness of the performances despite the roles taking all the usual cliched avenues. Characters are cocksure, arrogant and portrayed with bigger grudges than most students with a D- grade average – and all of course have difficulties with the system and ex-partners. Jackson gives his usual anchor role with loud screaming and sass, whilst both Farrell and Rodriguez play cocky & tough – elements they’ve done before and are used to handling quite well.

The others however are a surprise – Brian Van Holt & LL Cool J are both dull as dishwater, likewise Olivier Martinez who made such an impression in “Unfaithful” is easily the worst character here – neither menacing or goofy, and in fact sucks what little fun there is out of the movie. Renner is a forgettable albeit youthful spunky baddie and Josh Charles makes a fun reappearance after what’s seemed like a couple of years absent from mainstream studio fare.

The two hours is split right down the middle with character introductions and training sequences in the first half, before moving onto an elaborate ‘escort the crook whom everyone is trying to free’ routine in the second. Surprisingly its the first half which proves really quite fun and never loses steam or delves off into stupid territory.

The second half though becomes more like a dumb Summer actioneer with less plot and dumb logic coming to the fore. There’s still some quite elaborate sequences in here to keep things flowing and for only a $40 million or so price tag its certainly a slickly produced film which looks quite elaborate although the score is all too overboard.

For the audience its aimed at (ie. teen males) it works perfectly, for others – well this review I wouldn’t call anything more than a very light endorsement. SWAT is a decently enjoyable time waster (certainly a more rewarding time than the lacklustre and bloated “Bad Boys II”). Enjoyable dumb fun.