When I was just a pup, back in the day when radio used to play instrumental TV show themes as if they were the latest Beyonce single (read: ad nauseam), I hated S.W.A.T., the boring TV show about cops running around and occasionally shooting people. Happy Days was more up my alley.
However, I did love that S.W.A.T. song and used to comb the radio stations looking for that baby. Whenever the show came on TV, I’d watch the credits for the tune, switching my attention to more important things by song’s end, like coloring books or Lincoln Logs.
S.W.A.T., a modern movie update of the show, starring Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson, does have something in common with its TV counterpart: The only thing in it really worth a damn is the theme song.
Those looking for non-stop action, a high body count and Michelle Rodriguez naked will be disappointed. The first half of the film focuses on blasé training exercises as Hondo (Jackson), an “old school” S.W.A.T. guy, trains newbies in the ways of shooting a gun while rolling on the ground and cracking wise at your partner. The film’s writers apparently couldn’t come up with enough action sequences to fill the movie, so an inordinate amount of time is wasted on stars shooting at targets and running through obstacle courses. Man, that’s just movie dynamite.
This ragtag congregation of aspiring cops includes Farrell, Rodriguez and a bunch of other guys you couldn’t care less about, unless you are an LL Cool J fan. Farrell and Rodriguez have decent screen chemistry, an unfortunate thing because director Chuck Johnson doesn’t let them get together in the traditional sense. The most mischievous moment the two spend on screen together is a showdown with super-soakers at some kid’s birthday party. So much for S.W.A.T. sex appeal.
Apart from an opening bank robbery reminiscent of Heat, where Farrell’s partner gets in trouble for using unorthodox methodology in diffusing a hostage situation, the proceedings are rather sleepy. Things fire up a bit when an international criminal (Oliver Martinez), caught on television by news cameras, makes an offer of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of prison. The streets of Los Angeles break out in chaos as multiple criminals start shooting things up in hopes of a big payday.
Subplots involving Farrell’s failed relationships and his bad boy S.W.A.T. partner remain underdeveloped, as does most of the movie. Farrell, who has made a career out of being the one decent actor in sub-par movies, doesn’t do anything to hurt that reputation. Rodriguez, one of the better tough action-movie heroines right now, is given little to do besides flash her charmingly crooked smile and take a few bullets. Jackson has some good verbal quips but spends most of his time in the background shouting lines like “Let’s do this!” and “I don’t like driving!” and “I’m well past my Pulp Fiction heyday, no doubt turning into a worn-out, tired action-movie hack who frequents crap cinema for a big paycheck!” (OK, I made up that last one.)
By the time the seventh or eighth variation of the theme song plays, shortly after a Lear jet lands on a bridge in what amounts to the film’s highpoint, nearly two hours of disposable movie have passed you by. For a fun summer cop movie, see Bad Boys II. For a lesson in how to portray one of the toughest, tautest, taxing professions on Earth as being duller than dust on dirt, watch S.W.A.T.