S.W.A.T.

2003, Movie, PG-13, 117 mins

Review

S.W.A.T.
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A touch of retro grit distinguishes this formulaic cop film, inspired by the short-lived but fondly remembered 1970s television series, from the current crop of CGI-bloated action pictures. Elite training and heavy ordnance equip LAPD's Special Weapons and Tactics team to handle domestic terrorism, snipers and hostage situations like the volatile bank robbery that lands officers Street (Colin Farrell) and Gamble (Jeremy Renner) in the hot seat. Rather than obey image-conscious Captain Fuller's (Larry Poindexter) order to stand down, they charge into the fray and kill the gunmen, wounding a hostage in the process. Gamble prefers quitting to demotion, while Street opts to swallow his pride and hope for a second chance; he's subsequently dogged by rumors that he cut a deal and sold out his partner. Six months later, Street gets his shot at redemption: With the S.W.A.T. division under fire from the press and citizen's groups for their hot-dogging tactics, seasoned Sergeant "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) is called in to assemble a new and improved team. Hondo puckishly recruits a misfit brigade guaranteed to enrage Fuller, who's more concerned with politicking than hands-on police work. Deke Kaye (LL Cool J) is a beat cop — if a highly commended one — and Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) has taken the S.W.A.T. exam repeatedly without being accepted; the disgraced Street is on Fuller's all-time blacklist. Hondo rounds out the team with S.W.A.T. veterans Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt) and sharpshooter T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles). Hondo's newly minted team is put to the test when they're charged with escorting international crime lord Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) to a federal facility. Montel uses the inevitable clamoring TV crews to tender an offer that makes every lowlife in town sit up and take notice: $100,000,000 belongs to whoever breaks him out of custody. Screenwriter David Ayer spins a pumped up variation on John Carpenter's nightmarish ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976), in which an army of gang-bangers lay siege to a small police station; Montel's indecent proposal triggers a similar but much larger assault on Hondo's prisoner-transport team. Actor-turned-director Clark Johnson uses the flashy, up-to-the-minute editing and camera stunts action fans expect, but keeps the mayhem on a recognizably human scale — it's big, but not insanely overblown. Fans of the series will welcome cameos by Steve Forrest and Rod Perry, the original Hondo and Deke, and composer Elliot Goldenthal's liberal reprises of the distinctive theme music. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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