(Clark Johnson, USA, 2003)


The recruitment of an elite team – we've seen it so many times in movies, from Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954) to The Dirty Dozen (1967) and endlessly ever since. Even when it's within the frame of the law, this team is put together as a band of outsiders – edgy individualists, often with "issues", who need to prove something to themselves and to the world.

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson) chews up an awful lot of screen time putting this group together in S.W.A.T., one of the most listless of the big-budget action-thrillers to emerge in recent times. He collects a fallen hero (Colin Farrell), a tough woman (Michelle Rodriguez), a funky Afro-American (LL Cool J).

Meanwhile – with excruciating slowness – a plot line is also being set in place. Montel (Olivier Martinez), a wanted arms dealer, wanders around America making his presence felt. When he is at last arrested, he tells the ubiquitous television cameras that he will pay a million dollars to anyone who can spring him. So, finally, the crowded action scenes begin.

It is safe to say, sociologically, that Montel stands for America's consensus stereotype of the typically nasty French person at this point in political history. But there is precious little else of even passing interest in S.W.A.T. It lacks intrigue, adrenalin, sexiness.

And even the self-conscious, Tarantino-style touch of having the characters watch cop shows on television as they whoop and boogie does nothing to make proceedings more enjoyable.

© Adrian Martin November 2003

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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