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2003 - PG-13 - 117 Mins.
Director: John Clarkson
Producer: Dan Halsted, Dan Halstead, Chris Lee, Neal H Moritz
Written By: Ron Mita
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, and LL Cool J
Review by: John Ulmer
People are often complaining about Hollywood these days, saying how commercialized and greedy it's become over the years, and how the quality of films such as "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca" are long forgotten. It's true. The most perdinent proof that Hollywood is running out of original ideas is the fact that film executives are constantly giving the thumbs up to remakes of old 60s and 70s TV shows like "The Brady Bunch" and "Charlie's Angels." Next year we're all going to be sitting through "Bewitched" with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. The question is: Does "Bewitched" even need a remake?

That's not to say that there aren't original writers out there. Having written a fair share of film screenplays myself, and having read many others, the supply of original scripts is quite high. The demand is not. It's sad when quality films are passed for big-budget extravaganzas with not an ounce of thought and given the green light simply because some overweight pen pusher is considering the zeros.

"SWAT" is a breath of fresh air from the typical TV show remakes. It's not one of the best films in recent memory, but it's not nearly as cliched or goofy as I had imagined before going to see it. In fact, it's surprisingly gritty - more like an R-rated movie than a PG-13.

The film stars Colin Farrell as Jim Street. In the beginning, Jim is taking part in a routine hostage situation. At first it's being controlled by the police, but then matters become desperate. "Call in the SWAT," a cop says over a radio transmission, and then we see Jim and his five-year partner, Gamble (Jeremy Renner), giving their best efforts.

Gamble injures a hostage with a shot he wasn't supposed to take, though, and Jim and Gamble are reprimanded. Gamble is thrown off the force and Jim is reassigned to the lowly life of a SWAT weapons expert. Six months go by, and Sgt. Dan "Hondo" (Samuel L. Jackson) gives his machine gun to Jim, who does a great job tweaking around with it. And, as if by luck, Dan is assigned to put together a new SWAT team. He chooses Jim, based on his weapon skills; Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), a tough lady; T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), the wimpy guy; Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt), Jim's enemy on the force; and Deke (LL Cool J), a fast runner, as proved in his introductory sequence.

After the routine training scenes, the action jumpstarts when a foreign kingpin, Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) comes to town in hopes of making a name for himself. But that doesn't happen - much to the audiences' surprise - because Alex is arrested for a broken tail light and thrown in jail.

That's how the trouble starts. Alex offers a high payment to anyone who can break him out of jail - and during a prisoner transport, this happens, headed by Gamble and his cronies. Jim and co. are sent after the ex-SWAT member and his gang, in hopes of taking them down before Alex gets out of the country and so on and so forth.

Sounds pretty standard, right? It is. But the film is directed by Clark Johnson in a distinctly grainy style, reminiscent of "Training Day," only a bit softer. And the script doesn't resort to cliches all that often - when you think there's going to be a car chase, or a big shoot-out, nothing happens. Which is actually quite a relief, despite the fact that some audiences may have been expecting something a little bit...more.

Colin Farrell is doing exactly what he did in "The Recruit," acting smart and tough. Michelle Rodriguez is starting to stereotype herself after such flicks as "The Fast and the Furious" and "Resident Evil," playing tough women in both films, but I suppose that's all she really can play.

The actor who really surprised is an actor who's been around for quite some time: Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson is enjoyable, as usual, as the guy who knows everything - a role that usually fits him. But he steals the show from the other actors with his sly coolness that he displayed in "Pulp Fiction."

"SWAT" isn't as goofy as you think it's going to be. It's also not as action-packed as you might expect. If you want another "Die Hard" rip-off, look elsewhere. "SWAT" is, surprisingly, a pretty smart and character-driven action movie that never resorts to the typical action film cliches.

It's not a great movie, but given the other awful TV show remakes abounding the film market, you could certainly do worse than "SWAT."
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

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