Posts Tagged ‘S.W.A.T.’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published December 11th 2003:

Ambivalent though I invariably am when it comes to the Richard Curtis opus (Four Weddings, Notting Hill, et al), I do feel that he gets a bit of a raw deal sometimes. His films are regularly denounced for giving an entirely romanticised and unrealistic impression of what life in southern England is actually like – as if every other piece of cinematic entertainment could be entered for the documentary section of the Academy Awards without anyone rumbling to the fact.

This is not the case. Take, for example, the depiction of Los Angeles (and, more specifically, its law enforcement personnel) that we regularly get over here in the UK. I’ve never been to LA and don’t (as far as I know) know anyone who has. I know fairly little about real-world-LA. But I know an awful lot about movie-LA and the guys who police it. They are mostly dedicated and fiery mavericks who live for the job and will do whatever it takes to get their man. The only exceptions to this are those occasional dirty cops who sully the work of all the rest and are generally slimy individuals, and anyone in a position of authority. For some reason, the only people who get promoted are very-nearly-as-slimy politicians and career-minded apparatchiks unworthy of their positions. The heroic mavericks regularly get hauled into the captains’ office to be chewed out simply for doing their jobs. We naturally feel for the mavericks in this situation even though, were our neighbourhood coppers to behave the same way (blowing quite so much up), we would quickly denounce them as dangerous maniacs. Everyone is terribly loyal to each other and spends their spare time either hosting or attending barbeques with their workmates. It is best to stay single and childless as parents or people in long-term relationships are that little bit more likely to get shot in the third act.

It’s an all-too-familiar milieu and one in which Clark Johnson’s S.W.A.T exclusively takes place. This is a karaoke medley of a film – a collection of familiar scenes and characters you’ve seen done better somewhere else, assembled with no thought or imagination. Johnson must thank his lucky stars for being given a cast charismatic enough to make the result slightly less leaden than it could have been: Colin Farrell plays Jim Street, one of those fiery mavericks I was mentioning, who gets kicked out of the LA S.W.A.T (Special Weapons And Tactics – the special weapons apparently being machine guns and the tactics to run at the enemy howling and shooting from the hip) team for being just too loyal to his nutjob partner, Samuel L Jackson plays Sergeant Hondo, the bad-ass veteran who offers him a second chance on the team (either this role was written specifically for Jackson, or he’s just not bothering to act these days – it’s a moot point either way), LL Cool J plays a cop who’s married, and – be still my racing heart – the divine Michelle Rodriguez plays a cop who’s a single parent (uh oh).

And it’s watchable, just not especially involving. I wholeheartedly agree with everyone else who’s said this is basically just a TV series pilot with a $80 million budget. The setting-up-the-team bit of the story takes forever, leaving the actual plot, which revolves around transferring evil snail-munching jackanapes Alex Montel (played by Olivier Martinez, who apparently in real life does le jiggy-jiggy with Kylie Minogue) from one prison to another, underdeveloped in the extreme. The actors do their best, but they have very little to work with, and Rodriguez doesn’t get enough screen time (but she could be in every scene and I’d probably still say that).

The only mildly interesting thing about S.W.A.T is the way that it sometimes seems to be a heavily camouflaged war movie: the characters wear stormtrooper helmets and body armour and are forever abseiling out of helicopters. The ‘lions led by donkeys’ cliché I mentioned earlier ties into this as well. The villain is French, for Pierre’s sake. Like many a war movie, it’s essentially an action fantasy of blue-collar regular guy male bonding – one potential recruit is dismissed by Jackson for being a) too polite and b) a vegetarian (Michelle is allowed in as she is a sort of honorary guy, as in most of her films, despite all appearances to the contrary). And this seems to have done the film no harm at the US box office – but it really is utterly formulaic and undemanding stuff.

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