S.W.A.T. 1 & 2
S.W.A.T. (August 6/03)
Based on the 1970s TV series, S.W.A.T. follows a group of elite police officers - led by Samuel L. Jackson's Hondo Harrelson - as they attempt to prevent a notorious drug kingpin (Olivier Martinez's Alex Martinez) from executing his nefarious plans. Though S.W.A.T. isn't quite as tight as it could've been - the movie runs about 20 minutes longer than necessary - it's nevertheless the most entertaining and exciting non-sequel action movie to emerge in quite some time. A lot of credit for that belongs to the cast, comprised of familiar and unfamiliar faces, who bring a a certain amount of authenticity to the story. Leading the pack is Colin Farrell, recovering nicely from the disastrous The Recruit, who delivers a performance that's undeniably quite enjoyable - but nowhere as impressive as his work in films like Tigerland and Phone Booth. Jackson's playing yet another variation on his badass mofo persona, but it works here and fits with his character. Martinez's over-the-top performance is clearly a highlight within the proceedings, though his character isn't quite as evil as one might've hoped (ie he's more smarmy than anything else).The film's been helmed by actor-turned-director Clark Johnson, and though he's a little too reliant on shaky camerawork, the filmmaker proves to be an effective choice for this material. He never allows the film to sink into Tomb Raider territory of big stunts and bigger explosions, and although the final action sequence drags on a little longer than necessary, Johnson generally manages to strike an appropriate balance between exposition and violence. It is, however, a little puzzling that the film's been toned down to the extent that it received a PG-13 rating in the States; this is the kind of film that practically demands bloody violence. Still, S.W.A.T. is entertaining enough to overlook small flaws like that.
A passable direct-to-video sequel, S.W.A.T.: Firefight follows hotshot officer Paul Cutler (Gabriel Macht) as he's sent to train and certify a ragtag S.W.A.T. team in Detroit - with trouble ensuing as Paul is unsuccessful in his attempts at saving a hostage (Kristanna Loken's Rose Walker) from a volatile psycho (Robert Patrick's Walter Hatch). There's little doubt that S.W.A.T.: Firefight suffers from many of the problems associated with the DTV arena - ie horrible dialogue, shaky camerawork, etc - yet the film, despite opening with an unconvincing, poorly executed action sequence, eventually does manage to overcome its various problems to become a watchable actioner. Macht's strong work as the cocky central character certainly plays an instrumental role in initially capturing the viewer's interest, with the surprisingly adept supporting cast perpetuating the movie's relatively affable atmosphere. (And though Giancarlo Esposito is a lot of fun as the prototypical angry captain, it's Patrick's deliciously smarmy turn as the villain that stands as a highlight within the proceedings.) The decidedly repetitive nature of the film's structure, ie the whole thing seems to boil down to a series of training and on-the-job sequences, is generally not quite as problematic as one might've anticipated, and it's ultimately clear that S.W.A.T.: Firefight's most glaring deficiency is its ongoing reliance on needlessly ostentatious visuals - as filmmaker Benny Boom suffuses the movie's action-oriented moments with a variety of eye-rollingly over-the-top flourishes (ie do we really need POV shots from the perspective of the various characters' weapons?) The end result is a solid timewaster that looks even better when compared with the usual junk littering the DTV scene, which does ensure that the film is destined to fare best among grizzled fans of low-rent action flicks.