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With: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, James Todd Smith
Written by: Ron Mita, Jim McClain, David Ayer, David McKenna, based on the TV show created by Robert Hamner
Directed by: Clark Johnson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and sexual references
Running Time: 117
Date: 08/08/2003

S.W.A.T. (2003)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When film historians debate over the worst movie year in history, one of the arguments for 2003 will be S.W.A.T. Not because it's aggressively, nauseatingly bad like Kangaroo Jack or Gigli, but because it is monotonous to the point of despair.

Aspiring filmmakers usually dream of telling stories, or of sharing their ideas with the world. Some dream of changing lives, and others dream of simply transporting people away from their cares for two hours.

But, alas, not the filmmakers behind S.W.A.T. They make filmmaking look like the most boring job in the world. They've cranked out a picture with such little care or enthusiasm that they might as well have been working filling cereal boxes for six weeks.

Based on the 1975 television series, S.W.A.T. thinks of itself as an "assemble-the-team" movie, like The Italian Job or Reservoir Dogs, but without the energy or imagination of those two films.

In his fourth movie this year, Colin Farrell plays Jim Street, a hotshot S.W.A.T. team member who winds up working in the gun cage after a controversial decision during a hostage situation.

Samuel L. Jackson co-stars as Commander Hondo, a veteran who is asked to come up with the baddest, most kick-ass S.W.A.T. team ever. Guess who he picks?

The rest of the team consists of Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), Deke Kaye (James Todd Smith, a.k.a. LL Cool J), Boxer (Brian Van Holt) and T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles).

Their first task comes quickly when an international French murderer (Olivier Martinez) offers $100 million to anyone who breaks him out of jail.

Writers Ron Mita, Jim McClain, David Ayer and David McKenna borrow each and every overused twist from hundreds of other movies and TV shows. Not only do we have the pencil-pushing, pencil-necked sergeant without any street smarts (Larry Poindexter) who hopes for the team's downfall, but also the psychotic, renegade ex-partner (Jeremy Renner) gunning for revenge.

None of these villains has any depth; all three may as well be twirling moustaches and tying damsels to the railroad tracks.

On top of this director Clark Johnson makes mush out of the movie's big selling point, the action scenes. During a climactic fight between Farrell and Renner, the lighting and cutting are so bad that we can't tell which combatant is which. And the sluggish pacing throughout induces sleep rather than thrills.

The good guys, the S.W.A.T. team itself, have such genuine charisma that they're worth watching during a few of the quiet scenes, which come few and far between the blundering action sequences. But the screwed-up plot logic and great number of stupid coincidences kill even this tiny amount of fun.

At least Gigli has its wrongheaded awfulness going for it. This useless widget -- this checkmark on a corporate sales chart -- is a true insult to paying moviegoers.

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