Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"S.W.A.T rhymes with R.O.T. Certain facts rise above the trivial. Not this one."

S.W.A.T rhymes with R.O.T. Certain facts rise above the trivial. Not this one.

In the tradition of neo-con duplicity, what assumes to be an action-packed entertainment is camouflaged propaganda for "the most efficient, most respected" select division of the Californian police department. In a few years time, a replica movie will be made about Special Forces in Iraq, proving what dedicated, effective and honourable peacekeepers they are.

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Within its formulaic structure, the plot follows the dots. The only surprise is that the secondary storyline happens to be such a dud. The essential one, about a maverick S.W.A.T team, determined to prove to their prejudiced deskbound captain what a professional asset it is, suffers from a severe lack of originality. If cliches were currency, these guys would be rich.

Hondo (Samuel L Jackson) is from the old school, meaning he's been around the block, knows how to handle himself and believes in the motto: "We are a life saving organisation." He choses his team, which includes a lady (Michelle Rodriguez) and a cop (Colin Farrell), who has been disciplined for wounding a civilian during the relief of a bank siege, and proceeds to train them. This goes on and on until your teeth ache and the ability to retain interest is manifestly compromised.

After the yawning comes the secondary storyline, which involves a Frenchman (Olivier Martinez), who is arrested for having a broken tail light on his uncle's car and turns out to be high on Interpol's Most Wanted list for organised crime in Europe. As he is being taken away into custody, he shouts at the omnipresent TV cameras that there's $100million for anyone who can sping him from jail.

The S.W.A.T team is put in charge of moving the prisoner by helicopter to a higher security prison, or, as Hondo so delicately puts it, "Let's get this frog in the bird." Of course, every villain in town with a soupcon of greed and the brains of a peanut decides to smash their way through the cop cordon and claim the booty.

The unashamed predictability of it boggles what remains of your mind. Jackson strolls through his role with the minimum of exertion. He has been here so many times before, he doesn't need a map to tell him where the exits are. Farrell holds back on laddish charm and plays close to his chest. This is a genuine attempt at a performance that doesn't simply slot into the mould. It makes him less interesting, of course.

Rodriguez (Girlfight) is stuck with a gender deficiency, which only increases her desire to kick ass. Director Clark Johnson feels the same. When in doubt, he blows up cars, organises a firefight in a crowded street or persuades a pilot to land a Lear jet on one of the bridges downtown.

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2003
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S.W.A.T packshot
A team of specialised Californian cops act as bodyguard to an international criminal.
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Director: Clark Johnson

Writer: David Ayer, David McKenna

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, L L Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, Olivier Martinez

Year: 2003

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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