ninth symphony films - movie reviews

S.W.A.T. (2003)

DIRECTOR  -  clark johnson

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  111 minutes

RELEASED  -  8 august 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  s.w.a.t.

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $80,000,000
s.w.a.t. - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from s.w.a.t. at

buy the dvd from s.w.a.t. at

an imprisoned drug kingpin offers a huge cash reward to anyone that can break him out of police custody and only the lapd's special weapons and tactics team can prevent it.

an actual police chase drove through the set during filming.


picture from s.w.a.t.

picture from s.w.a.t.

picture from s.w.a.t.


two out of four possible stars

If ever a film was able to tell its story without telling a story, S.W.A.T. would be that movie. This film is like a character study without enough character in it. With enough action sequences to give any fan their fill of explosions, car chases, and more explosions, S.W.A.T. certainly wears its label of "action movie" well. And though the psychology of a S.W.A.T. team might have been more thoroughly investigated, viewers should be thankful for the unusually plump dosage of character development in this film. Of course, in a highly ironic move, the screenwriters (or perhaps it was the editor) decided to let the film hum along without a real plot for at least an hour. It's hard to know whether to slap or congratulate the filmmakers on this decision, as it's certainly not a fatal move (for this particular film), but it does border on the annoying when a full hour has ticked by and the members of the S.W.A.T. team in this film are still undergoing training.

Given the strong personalities in front of the camera and across the roster of actors, there is the usual amount of over-developed testosterone induced manliness that infuses nearly every scene, though Michelle Rodriguez's appearance as a S.W.A.T. team member creates some balance to the equation. Female viewers of this film might identify with her character's problems and will be thankful for her addition to the film, given the gun toting and overall machismo of the rest of the cast. The "I'm a man and I like to play with guns" attitude that stars Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell engage in for much of the film actually becomes humorous at times.

And whether this was the filmmakers' intention or not, some scenes in S.W.A.T. nearly resemble those of a melodramatically enhanced movie-of-the-week on a broadcast network. In particular, the staging and performances in one of the earliest scenes in the film (when Colin Farrell's "Jim Street" angrily confronts his team partner in a locker room) seems to harken back to the type of popular cinematography one might have seen in a film twenty-five years ago. The shots can also be compared to the seemingly hastily executed camera work of movie-of-the-week productions.

That's not to say that the film's cinematography seems constructed oddly in too many areas, but those few strangely filmed scenes remain littered throughout the film, looking completely out of place with the more standard, modern cinematography. It's possible that the cinematographer and director wanted to pay homage to the television series of the same name upon which the film was based, but staging only parts of the film so strangely seems like a blunder more than a conscious decision. Another blunder in the visual style of the film is the late inclusion of Olivier Martinez's story-line.

He plays an international fugitive named, "Alex Montel," who offers 100 million dollars to anyone who can spring him from jail. This story could probably be considered the plot of the film (it's the main obstacle that the S.W.A.T. team must hurdle over in the second half), but the plot just seems so out of sync with the rest of the picture. After spending so much time getting to know the main characters, the film seems to hit a brick wall when it suddenly transports the audience away from those characters to Montel's story. One must take a few moments to understand the reason for the inclusion of Montel's story and that makes suspending one's disbelief a difficult task in the middle of the film.

But barring further complaints on the unharmonious plot and the sometimes strange cinematography, the film remains an entertaining one on a character level because of the strong performances. Though he's made some rather interesting (to put it euphemistically) choices in film roles, Jackson certainly does not disappoint as the boisterous S.W.A.T. team leader.

And continuously rising-star, Colin Farrell creates a believable, though not entirely dynamic performance out of his character. He seems to have licked the American accent at least. Olivier Martinez has no problems with his role either, though it would be easy to label his character "one-dimensional." As stated before, Michelle Rodriguez fights her way into a man's domain with the ease one would expect from the strong actress and LL Cool J (playing a S.W.A.T. team member) infuses his role with equal parts of bad-ass and humor.

What S.W.A.T. amounts to is an action film with sufficiently large action sequences that tries to fit in some character psycho-babble along the way. If one were to look at this film as more of an experiment in changing the way action movies are made, the experiment wouldn't seem a total failure, but placing a whole-hearted stamp of approval on the project would be difficult. The filmmakers were courting the full spectrum of movie-goers with this movie, but in reality succeeded only marginally in roping in all demographics.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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