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  S.W.A.T. To Protect And Serve
Year: 2003
Director: Clark Johnson
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, Olivier Martinez, Reg E. Cathey, Larry Poindexter, Page Kennedy, Domenick Lombardozzi, James Dumont, Dennis Arndt, Lindsay Ginter, Lucinda Jenney
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: In Downtown Los Angeles there is an armed robbery in progress where a gang have raided a bank and are still inside, with hostages made up of staff and customers who they are threatening to shoot if they do not get their way. The police have called in their S.W.A.T. team, who include officers Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), and they land on the roof of the bank from a helicopter to break their way inside without alerting the criminals. It all goes well until one of the thieves is shot dead outside as he climbs into the getaway vehicle, and one of the others grabs a woman and is about to kill her when Gamble takes a shot; the bullet goes through her shoulder and into the criminal, knocking him to the floor...

All very well, they brought down the bad guy, but the Chief (Larry Poindexter) is not so pleased when the injured woman sues the L.A.P.D. and brings both Street and Gamble into his office for some patented cop movie shouting down of the heroes. What was slightly different about this was that when he tells them it could cost them their badges, and certainly their places on the titular S.W.A.T. team, he means it: Gamble is fired and Street relegated to the "cage" to attend to evidence and whatnot, and that's only because he agreed with the Chief that his partner was unnecessarily reckless. This may have you wondering if at last Hollywood had found a sufficiently different variation on the action flick formula to be worth your while.

The rest of the two hours or so might not live up to that, however, yet as a film based on an old, dimly remembered television cop show, this wasn't half bad. It took place in a universe where the original existed (we saw a rerun on TV, and the team sang the theme tune at one point) but they were also playing the source material with a bigger budget and more dedication to the over the top sequences that were regulation in this sort of adaptation, as if to prove the movies still had it where it counted when spectacle was involved, certainly over the small screen. That said, despite lasting twice the length of the average episode, it could have served as a neat two-parter as American TV drama was fond of doing back in the seventies.

It was ambitious enough, but not so much that it was utterly ridiculous aside from the occasional excesses such as a private jet landing on a bridge to pick up the bad guy. What to do when a Eurotrash gangster (professional handsome man Olivier Martinez) comes to town and gets arrested on a fluke driving offence which reveals his true identity? Put him away, of course, but as he is cuffed and marched to the prison he shouts to the camera that he is offering a Dr. Evil-esque hundred million dollars to the person or people who break him out again, and he assures the viewers he can make good on that promise. This was the problem the S.W.A.T. members had to deal with, but first they had to be assembled under the tutelage of Samuel L. Jackson, stepping into Steve Forrest's boots as Sergeant Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Forrest showed up at the end in a blessing-giving cameo).

Naturally he welcomes Street back to the fold, and finds the likes of Michelle Rodriguez as the token woman and LL Cool J as Mr Sassy to back him up, getting around the issue of the traditional action movie featuring a maverick by making all the team mavericks - it's a veritable maverick convention. If you are wondering what happens to Gamble, he's gone off in the huff, a confrontation with Street in a bar aside, but you may think it would be a waste not to give Renner a larger role, and you would be correct in that assumption. There was a neat enough twist, as with more or less everything here doing just enough to keep a rather uninspired concept alive without ever turning to actual ingenuity, and as these things went, unpromising usually, this was surprisingly pleasing with a nice camaraderie between the cops and some muscular action delivered by director Clark Johnson, appropriately often at the helm of television episodes when he wasn't acting in them. No, it would not linger long in the memory, but that just meant an easy rewatchability factor and a reliable bet for sticking with if it ever appeared on TV when you were channel surfing. Music by Elliott Goldenthal.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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