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The rest of the S.W.A.T. gang debate over
whether or not they should kill the dude
who is always obsessed with getting his hair
perfect.

S.W.A.T.
Review written by: Alex Sandell

There have been so many films released in the police genre that the only way to break away from the tired formula, is to turn your movie radically real, as did last year's critically acclaimed Narc, or go absurdly over-the-top, as did this years ill-received Bad Boys II.  Unfortunately, most cop "dramas" settle on PG-13 clichéd tripe, knowing that the majority of non-discriminating teens and middle-aged housewives are more comfortable paying for something that they've already watched, rented and memorized numerous times, than to put their orthodox brain cells to work, trying to accept something new.

And for that audience, S.W.A.T. is going to be a crowd-pleaser.  It's not too violent.  It has occasional bad jokes and occasionally more bad dialogue.  It has a malapropos captain (doing his best to botch up the investigation).  And for you fans of Armageddon (all 2 of you), the film features an extended training scene, getting the S.W.A.T. members recruited by Lt. Dan 'Hondo' Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), into shape.  Did I mention that, much like Armageddon, the movie is filled with overbearing rock songs?  If you don't leave the theater satisfied, at least you'll leave it deaf, so you won't be able to hear yourself complaining. 

This is a "pig-by-the-numbers" cop flick in every conceivable way.  Drug lord Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) winds up getting himself thrown in jail for having a broken taillight (I thought it would have been even funnier if he was busted jaywalking).  Montel, not a fan of the penal system, offers 100 million dollars to anyone willing and able to bust him out of jail and back into the civilized world, where he can get revenge on cops across the globe who dare to imprison a prominent drug lord for something as trivial as a broken taillight. 

In the meantime, Hondo Harrelson is using the Rocky III method to get his newly assembled S.W.A.T. team into shape.  Musical montages are still hip in the year 2003, I guess.  Harrelson's new team doesn't sit well with the captain.  First of all, Hondo's recruited the semi-mutinous Jim Street (Colin Farrell).  Street was thrown off the S.W.A.T. team when he and his partner became a bit over-zealous in their pursuit of "justice."  While Street's partner Brian Gamble went to the dark side of the force, leaving behind the "serve and protect" crap to more Yoda-like cops, Street allowed himself to be demoted, in hopes that he would eventually be able to strap back on his beloved S.W.A.T. uniform. Once he's finally asked to rejoin S.W.A.T, I honestly awaited a rap-rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star."

The second thing that gets under the Captain's collar is the fact that Shaft ... er, "Hondo" recruits a *gasp* female to the team.  Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) is absolutely identical to every other character Rodriguez has played.  Sometimes I wish she never made it into that indie boxing movie, because I'm getting damn sick of her surly shit. I feel obligated to admit that she does manage to crack a smile during the two hour film.  She may even laugh.  As a matter of fact, I think she did chuckle, but I was too stunned to be sure.  The film would almost be worth it just to hear her snort, if you didn't have to sit through the entirely predictable plot to witness the rare moment.

Surprisingly, or possibly just depressingly, Rodriguez emotes more than the majority of the cast.  Samuel L. Jackson is once again playing the living dead with a weapon.  This guy was a good actor once.  Compared to his sleepwalking in S.W.A.T., his infamously lousy line in Attack of the Clones ("this party's over") is Oscar worthy.  Colin Farrell doesn't fare much better.  Farrell is, without doubt, one of the best actors to come along since Jack Nicholson, but his heart isn't in this picture.  This is the guy who managed to make Daredevil entertaining, with his campy portrayal of Bullseye.  And don't get me started on Phone Booth.  That movie proved he could act as well as he could use curse words.  I guess S.W.A.T was just money in the bank, for him.

The only two performers who actually seem to be trying are L.L. Cool J and Olivier Martinez.  Cool J plays David Kay as a comic relief character.  No, it's nothing new for the rapper turned actor, but the star gives it his all.  The only serious actor that really deserves to pull in a paycheck is Martinez.  This iniquitous drug dude feels as though he belongs in another movie.  Nearly every time he comes on the screen, you're transported into a passable cop film.  He's the reason that "even cops call 911."  But he's not nearly enough to save this formulaic flick.  And by the end, when the movie moves past formula and into lampoonery (the hero and anti-hero decide to "do away with" their weapons and fight man-to-man), he dives right into the sewer of stinky blockbuster conformity.

I had high hopes for this picture.  Although Clark Johnson, the director of S.W.A.T., had primarily worked on television before this, he directed some damn fine shows.  From West Wing to NYPD Blue to the cop show to end all cop shows, Homicide, the guy seemed to know his stuff.  Even the two screenwriters had an impressive number of movies behind them, including Training Day, Dark Blue and American History X.  So what the hell went wrong?  I'd put my money on producer Neal H. Moritz (who I like to call "mini-Bruckheimer").  When I saw that the film has been advertised as being from the producer of XXX and 2 Fast 2 Furious, the fast edits, rap and metal music and garden variety story made all the sense in the world.

S.W.A.T. plays it safe.  S.W.A.T. plays its grating rock soundtrack loud.  There's a good movie hidden beneath the prosaic rubbish we've been served up.  Unfortunately, no matter how far we dig, we'll never be able to reach it. 

On a scale of 1-10?

3

What does this rating mean?  Everyone rates things differently.  Your "5" could be my "7," or vice-versa.  Find out what MY rating means by clicking here

Agree? Disagree? Feeling bored and wanna write a letter that you'll probably never get a response to?  Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

Other recent film reviews on THE JUICY CEREBELLUM (click on a film's title to go to its review):

American Wedding

Seabiscuit

Spy Kids 3-D:  Game Over

Bad Boys II

Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl

Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines

Legally Blonde 2:  Red, White & Blonde

Coming soon -- Reviews of Freddy VS Jason, Open Range, American Splendor and Jeepers Creepers 2!

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Phone Booth

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Text ©(Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].