Did or does S.W.A.T. the television series have the sort of cult following that made a film version inevitable? Are there conventions of kids who dress up in ersatz S.W.A.T. uniforms and stage mock rescues? Are there Hondo worshipers? A frightening thought, but not as off-putting as sitting through this film.
The passel of writers and director Clark Johnson have not so much translated the hit 70s television series as lovingly reproduced it with slightly better special effects and a few words that weren’t allowed on the public airwaves back then. The story is like two mediocre one-hour episodes tacked onto one another. The writing has all the hallmarks of having been produced with all the quality control of on a weekly deadline, leaving us with predictable dialogue and a plot that fears to stray from the well-worn action formula. As for the acting, one can forgive the actors being uninspired, what with a dearth of character development and a director who can drain the energy from any scene of mayhem with static shots best suited to the limitation of the small screen where he honed his craft. Even the lighting and sets have that cheesy, get it done quick and fast look to them.
What we have is Colin Farrell as S.W.A.T guy extraordinaire, Jim Street, who makes the mistake of having a witless partner, and hence, is busted down to desk duty. Never mind it making sense, it’s important for the product placement as his fellow desk jockey swills down a popular soft drink, prominently displayed on film but which will remain nameless here. Its also important because, naturally, Street’s itching to get back into action and naturally Samuel L. Jackson as Sgt. Hondo will take care of that. Hondo’s been brought in to clean up the S.W.A.T team or some such nonsense that involves creating a squad, putting them through their training paces, and then hitting the streets in a blaze of glory.
I’m sure it all looked very good on paper at some point in the development process. What ended up on screen, however, is a great deal of male preening, posturing, and the occasional tussle, followed by the ritual male bonding that always follows rigorous training. Oh, there’s a woman in the mix, of course (Michelle Rodriguez), a scrappy little stereotype with a big mouth and a little kid that she adores, and which allows her to show the audience that despite being able to drop linebackers, she’s really all-woman in that safe, 1950s kind of way.
Colin is cute, Sam is snarky, and that’s pretty much all we have to cling to for the first hour and ten minutes of this two-hour turkey. Suddenly, things threaten to perk up when a Eurotrash super criminal (a deathly vapid Olivier Martinez) offers $100 million to anyone who can spring him from jail. The fact that he is a super criminal and yet does things like kill someone in a public place, steal the dead man’s car, and not expect to get picked up is never explained. Still, for a brief shining moment, the film shows all of Los Angeles picking up any weapon that’s handy, be it gun, bazooka or truck, and trying to hit the jackpot, so to speak, with our S.W.A.T. guys fending them off from all sides. Alas, it couldn’t last and just when it stops being dull, it gets preposterous with a convoluted plan that has apparently sprung into place with all of an hour’s notice.
Sure, there are torrents of bullets, fleets of cars skidding with wild abandon, and a helicopter crash, but they are all lifeless exercises, performed by rote. Even the general public, who should be fleeing the mayhem in terror, seem rather to be sauntering indifferently, as though late for a meeting that will be as time-wasting as this film.
For form’s sake, let me just say this and get it out of the way. Not every television show is big screen fodder. Unless you translate it with something that gives people a reason to plunk down cash for a ticket and some popcorn, let franchises remain in syndication heaven. There, I feel better.