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Directed by Clark Johnson.
Written by David Ayer and David McKenna. 
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  8/11/03 


Many of you have witnessed my first and last film, “Gratuitous”, but you might not remember what theme song is playing over the opening credits.  Well, that song is the opening theme song for the 1970s cop show “S.W.A.T.”, a very average cop show that simply has the best opener of all time.  And, with all of those cheap gunfire and car screeches playing over the song, the thing just screams cop show, and I friggin’ loved it.

Now, when they announced a film version of the TV show, I didn’t know what to expect because the few times I have seen the show, it was really nothing special...hence, I came into this thing just hoping it wouldn’t suck.  Worse, the film is rated PG-13, and I was surprised it wasn’t an ‘R’ but it also meant that it might not be as violent or profane as I normally like my cop flicks to be.

But “S.W.A.T.” surprised me, mostly because the action scenes are well done, tough and violent without being bloody, and the four main stars of the film help create a fun environment that has a lot more laughs than the TV show ever had, that’s for sure.  Some of the plot falls into cliché--a veteran S.W.A.T. officer named Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson) is called back into service after a three-year hiatus because the Los Angeles S.W.A.T. Department has gone to shit.  The police captain asks Hondo to recruit a special ops S.W.A.T. unit to lead counterterrorism efforts, so Hondo goes out and recruits five cops, including former S.W.A.T. man Jim Street (Colin Farrell), Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez, smiling more than usual), and “Deke” Kay (LL Cool J), to form the unit.  Eventually, the unit must protect a criminal (Olivier Martinez, from “Unfaithful”) that has offered $100 million to anyone that can break him out of prison.

I have to admit, from start to finish, “S.W.A.T.” is pretty solid.  I like the requisite training/bonding sequences that have to occur in all of these films, and director Clark Johnson (veteran TV director and currently on “The Wire”) does a great job of pacing his film with male social jousting, large-scale action set pieces, and throwaways like following the team as they go about their Sunday business when they are all interrupted with a 911 call.  And, there were a couple of really interesting little things that the movie featured that I have been waiting for movies to do for years--I think this is the first film I have ever seen where bad guys use a padlock so large and so thick that a good guy can’t just walk up to it and shoot it off.  So simple, yet it makes for a scene where the cops have a minor dilemma.

And, to be honest, I could watch Colin Farrell and LL Cool J hang out all day.  Seriously, these two guys are just damned cool.  I can’t tell you how many times I caught myself during the movie wondering how many days these two spent during the shoot talking shit about how many times they got laid the previous night.  I can already see it--

LL:  I can’t keep ‘em away, man.  Five came over last night, and we didn’t even wrap until 1 AM!!

Colin [in thick Irish brogue]:  Five?  Shit, I shredded five for BREAKFAST this morning!  I can’t keep doing these shoots in LA, man.  It’s like every day, I have girls between takes, over lunch, after the shoot, on the weekends...this shit is tough, being 26, Irish and the best looking guy on the planet right now--

LL:  Easy, tiger...I may be 35, but I ain’t outta the game just yet.  Have you seen my videos?  I’m the casting director, baby--I’m runnin’ through honies like Lance Armstrong runs through finish lines.

And on and on.  The film itself is plain ol’ solid and adds to an already deep pool of action-adventures for 2003.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09