Starring: Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Clark Johnson
IN SWAT, an international crime lord, Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), offers a $100 million bounty to anyone who can free him from police custody.
The elite Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) Unit of the Los Angeles Police Department must defend the prisoner against the onslaught of entrepreneurial rescuers.
Unfortunately, what I’ve managed to summarise in two sentences takes the film more than an hour to get started.
SWAT is based on a very ordinary US television show from the 1970s.
In the original series, the characters Hondo Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) and Jim Street (Colin Farrell), served mostly as a pretext for action sequences, high-calibre weapons firing, and cars flipping over and exploding.
The film-makers might have paid more homage to this. It would have saved 50 minutes of pointless character development and mostly uninspired SWAT team training scenes. (I will admit that one of the film’s best scenes is a training exercise on a retired jumbo jet.)
Director Clark Johnson is himself a former TV cop, having played a Baltimore police detective in the series Homicide. Perhaps his ‘on the job’ experience contributed to what seems a real effort to offer an ‘authentic’ portrayal of police work and training.
This approach to the filmed action is SWAT’s best feature. The authenticity of the violence keeps us interested; it heightens the stakes by making the danger seem … well … actually dangerous.
If you are a fan of ‘police procedurals’ then SWAT will keep you interested. If not, then you’ll have to hope that Colin Farrell’s pretty face will keep you from nodding off during the meandering story here.
There is one other point of authenticity in SWAT worth noting. The film’s bad guy is a foreigner.
As such, the authorities determine he will be sent to a maximum security federal prison without the benefit of a trial.
In fact, this isn’t even a problem the screenwriters felt they had to explain away. They took it for granted he would be locked away in this manner.
If they wanted to be completely accurate, perhaps the SWAT guys should have taken Montel to Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There, he could join the nearly 600 prisoners who, in the name of freedom, are being detained without due process or access to legal counsel.