There is a peculiar thing I noticed about Colin Farrell's character, Jim Street in 'SWAT.' At about 3 or 4 different instances in the film when the elite police crews were stuck in terse circumstances, Street jumped out from the crowd like a panacea and provided a solution. One such situation involved the SWAT team on their final training mission, which required them to sneak into an aircraft and overwhelm the terrorists inside. While being guided by their 'old school' head, Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson, playing it rather straight) and being told about possible entry points, Street pointed out another entrance to the aircraft, apparently from the rear, that wasn't on the blue print. How did he know about this? Well, he once dated a stewardess, that's how.
In the same way that Street helps his squad out of unchallenging setbacks, first time director Clark Johnson guides the entire movie through mundane situations that diminish what is at most times a very watch-able police saga into a moderate entertainer. Street, who was a SWAT himself, is relegated to spending time in the 'cage', cleaning guns and signing papers after his partner injures a hostage while taking down a bank robber. While Jim chooses to accepts such lowly duties, his partner walks out on him, leaving him out of active duty, until he runs into Hondo, who is looking to enlist and train an exceptional team.
The training sequences, much like those in Farrell's earlier release this year, the mediocre 'Recruit', are also the liveliest parts in this feature. Providing diverse company to Street is the presence of single mother Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) as the token tough chick and Deke (LL Cool J), who has six pack abs and is proud of it. Their drilling sessions supply some back story to most of the major characters but when replaced with montages that are punctuated by rock tunes, seem like secondary activity at best, who's only purpose is to kill some running time and make preparations for the big test.
That big test comes in the form of international criminal Alex (Olivier Martinez). I don't know what the casting agents were thinking by giving this role to Martinez who has all the viciousness of a petty street pickpocket. For all the rigours of their training, it must seem like a breeze for these SWAT to be given the task of transporting Alex from one state cell block to another. But once Alex has announced, on national TV no less, a million dollars to anyone who helps break him out, all hell breaks loose on the streets.
Director Clark Johnson, who's only experience prior to this, has been in directing dialogue heavy cop dramas such as 'Homicide', plays it rather safe by letting the action do most of the talking here. The action sequences, while thoroughly enjoyable, are rather pointless without the backing of a strong character driven plot. While it never has a TV movie feel, I would have liked to see more of camaraderie between team members. What we are served instead are all the juicy visuals without the heart. - Faizan Rashid