S.W.A.T.

Talk about buzz kill. No, really, talk about it. Discuss, and I’ll be back in a few moments with something to snack on and read another entry from “Emmanuele’s Wicked Tales.” Sorry, must have gotten lost in another bad 1970’s drug flashback, which is where you’ll find “S.W.A.T.,” an action-based crime drama based on the marginally persuasive television show.


My personal favorite “S.W.A.T.” moment comes at the end of “The Blues Brothers Movie,” when a platoon of Special Weapons and Tactics team members ascend on an office building, yelling “hut, hut” after each exaggerated movement.

Anything for a laugh, which is what you shouldn’t expect from “S.W.A.T.,” a cheeky riff on the television show, with enough jaw-dropping explosions to test any theater sound system. The seasoned cast manages to keep a straight face, a good sign that they are on the same page as the script. Even with its pedestrian dialogue and two-dimensional characters, “S.W.A.T.” isn’t as bad as “The Mod Squad.”

Mindless, top heavy with good intentions and free-flowing testosterone, “S.W.A.T.” is pretty much what you expect from a television show created to help marginally leading men recover lost airwaves from their female counterparts (“Charlie’s Angels,” “Police Woman,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “Get Christie Love!”).

It’s amazing that “S.W.A.T.” lasted two seasons, considering they only used one script. It’s the one where the “S.W.A.T.” team surrounds a building in order to save a hostage from a gunman. Remember that one? Writers David Ayer and David McKenna don’t stray too far from the feed bag, but director Clark Johnson (“Law & Order,” “The Shield”), drawing from his extensive small screen crime drama resume, knows how to set them up and knock them down.

After leaping over early plot contrivances, “S.W.A.T.” rebounds with a promising premise. The disgraced “S.W.A.T.” team is brought of out deep freeze by Commander Dan “Hondo” Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), who has weeks to put together a team to guard International bad guy Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez). As if the job wasn’t tough enough, now the “S.W.A.T.” team must dodge every soldier of fortune willing to cash in on Montel’s offer of $100 million to anyone who will free him.

That promising premise eventually flat lines into a run-of-the-mill chase film, albeit with bigger explosions and toys, never allowing the cast to rise above their corrugated cardboard beginnings. Jackson is okay as the team leader, but “Hondo” isn’t a make or break role. What’s truly missing is Jackson’s intensity, which fueled his characters in “Changing Lanes” and “Basic.” Jackson is hitting his marks and barking out orders, but you feel like you’re watching a seal show at Sea World rather than a seasoned pro rallying the troops.

The troops include Colin Farrell as Jim Street, the nonconformist team member who gets the big boot, only to see the error of his ways. Played on the small screen by Robert Ulrich, Street was just another young buck in a long line of “Rookie” clones. They came and went so fast that I was amazed anyone would want to revive “S.W.A.T.,” much less remember it. Wouldn’t “Columbo,” “The Streets of San Francisco” or “Emergency” be better suited to the big screen?

Johnson, a former actor turned writer/director, doesn’t feel the need to impress us with his music video film school education (he doesn’t have one). Instead, he puts the characters up on the screen, front and center, even when they don’t have anything important to say. His attempt to create a character-driven film is admirable, but it never pans out. As hard as he tries, Johnson doesn’t have the power to hold back on the script’s tried and true cliches.

LL Cool J., Michelle Rodriguez, Brian Van Holt, and Josh Charles flesh out the rest of the “S.W.A.T.” team, but like Farrell, they’re only here to serve the script. God forbid should they have an original thought in their collective minds, because that would create a paradox for the writers. If you don’t connect the dots, then you won’t be able to see the pretty picture. How about getting another team of writers who ignore the dots, people capable of writing a crime drama without lugging around all that unnecessary baggage.

S.W.A.T. Cop drama explodes from small screen to large

S.W.A.T.

Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, John Charles, Olivier Martinez, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt. Directed by Clark Johnson. Rated PG-13. 17 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $4.00



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