Web standards alert

Account: log in (or sign up)
onebee Writing Photos Reviews About


The first rule of S.W.A.T. is that you don't S.W.A.T. about S.W.A.T.

S.W.A.T. tells the story of a beautiful young woman, Lara, whose brother is on the LAPD S.W.A.T. team and whose boyfriend is an ex-S.W.A.T. member who spends most of his time working out in the rain with an oceanfront punching bag. One day, she decides that her ex-S.W.A.T. boyfriend isn't as cool as he was when he was S.W.A.T., so she moves out, leaving him with his free weights and his poster of Bullitt. Unfortunately, after this point, the film goes off on a bit of a tangent, and we're subjected to some weird police department story line regarding an international crime kingpin and the attempts by a dark horse S.W.A.T. unit to contain him. This is a shame, because Lara is really quite beautiful, and has a rather tantalizing way of displaying her tongue piercing while conversing or pouting. Lara is played by Ashley Scott, who you may have spotted in A.I. a couple of years ago, but could easily have missed if a moth flew in front of the projector lens at the right moment. It's even less likely that you'd have caught her in Dark Angel on Fox or Birds of Prey on the WB, because the only way you'd have conceivably tuned in to those shows is if the cat stepped on the remote while you were watching something else. She's pretty remarkable, though, so here's hoping that her starring role in S.W.A.T. is enough to propel her into Hollywood's elite. Meg Ryan's chair is open.

Anyway, what S.W.A.T. is really about is fairly typical. It opens, as action movies always do, with a little mini-action movie to give us a taste of what's to come. In this case, the mini-movie is about a bank heist very similar to the real-life LA shootout that was chronicled recently in FX's 44 Minutes with Mario van Peebles. (Yes, the phrase "with Mario van Peebles" does occur in sentences where it's not providing context for Lou Diamond Phillips's career nosedive; but it's rare.) In this bank heist, Colin Farrell and his partner make a gutsy move outside S.W.A.T. protocol and are busted down to "regular" cops by the requisite pencil-pushing hardass who never steps out from behind his desk but thinks he knows everything about how cops work. Farrell accepts this with chagrin, because to put up a fight would mean phonetically memorizing too much dialogue in an American accent, but the partner goes bonkers, leaves the force, and starts a career in arts and crafts. He begins by using the back of Farrell's skull to make a nice pattern in the LAPD locker room mirror.

From there, it's a story of Farrell and other S.W.A.T. wannabes coming together under the determined leadership of Samuel L. Jackson, training to return to S.W.A.T., and then finding that their unorthodox ways are exactly what the department needs in order to tackle the most challenging case in its history: transporting smug crime boss Olivier Martinez (still smirking from the fact that he stole Diane Lane's septuagenarian heart in Unfaithful) to a federal prison amid epic breakout attempts by random LA gangs who have heeded Martinez's plea that he'll grant $100 million to anyone who springs him. (In case we're unsure whether to like Martinez, he puts a penknife through his uncle's throat and then spits on him in an early scene. Also, he's French.) For the first time in S.W.A.T. history, there's a woman on the team, played by Michelle Rodriguez, who never really won my heart in Girlfight, The Fast and the Furious, or Blue Crush but certainly proves herself a charming addition here. I guess being the only girl on screen makes her seem a lot more feminine. Equal parts tomboy and sexpot, she certainly holds her own in the action scenes and the verbal sparring among S.W.A.T. officers, which are easily the best parts of the movie.

Despite my effusive adoration for its billboards, my view of S.W.A.T. was that it would probably be a formulaic summer cop movie with really nothing to offer. As it turns out, the snappy dialogue, peppy pace, and impressive action do make it quite a thrill ride. It has its share of not-exactly-Sixth Sense twists, which shouldn't be anyone's reason for going to the movie, but they make it fun. And, if memory serves, they were shooting the scene with the plane on LA's Sixth Street bridge when a real-live cop chase crashed through the production. I'm hoping there's mention of that on the DVD, because: cool. S.W.A.T. has a lickably slick tone and an ensemble of great supporting-level actors, including LL Cool J and Josh Charles (who you loved in Dead Poets Society and Sports Night, unless you're some sort of Hitler-lover). And I love movies that shoot in LA but then mix up the geography. For example, the team chases baddies into the Wilshire/Western subway station, and once they get downstairs they keep referring to it as the "Figueroa Station" despite the fact that all the walls now read "Wilshire/Normandie." Whee!

And, my account of S.W.A.T. would not be complete if I didn't mention that, yes, it did almost make me cry a couple of times. (So did Gigli, different story.) The same thing happened when Gary Oldman and his band of terrorists seized control of Air Force One in Air Force One. I can't exactly explain it, but I think I'm just really proud of the type of people being portrayed in these scenes. In the case of the Secret Service agents in Air Force One and the S.W.A.T. team here, they are representing real people who actually do jump in to risk their lives to protect others. They do so without hesitation, because they have the training and it's just plain their job. Stuff like that just always chokes me up. Perhaps it's because I am not in general very supportive of the concept of the military as a whole, but the individual troops in combat earn my tremendous respect. And, some of it is probably just damn fine filmmaking!

Your Comments
Name: OR Log in / Register to comment

Comments: (show/hide formatting tips)

send me e-mail when new comments are posted