Just once, Judge Steve Power would like to be with the S.W.A.T. team, and not against them.
Our review of S.W.A.T.: Firefight (Blu-Ray), published March 1st, 2011, is also available.
It's all about speed and precision…
Does anyone else out there remember the 2003 cop actioner, S.W.A.T.? The Colin Farrell led, Sammy Jackson supporting remake of the cult '70s cop show remembered more fondly for its theme song than any other quality. Well, almost a decade later, and rather unexpectedly, comes a direct-to-video sequel in S.W.A.T.: Firefight. There's not a whole lot of legacy to live up to here, but does this one manage to kick off a franchise?
Facts of the Case
Paul Cutler (Gabriel Macht, The Spirit) is a successful LA S.W.A.T negotiator who's never, EVER lost a hostage. He's the perfect cop, until he's picked to bring an experienced team of Detroit S.W.A.T personnel up to the modern standard. Of course he loses his first hostage fresh off of the boats, his team consists of the usual gathering of walking cop movie clichés, and a revenge driven, homicidal maniac (Robert Patrick, The Marine) wants to cut him down after completely fragging up his way of life; just another day on the job for your average pretty-boy action hero.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm going to tell you that I'm actually a pretty big fan of the 2003 iteration of S.W.A.T. I was impressed with the "old school" feel of the action, the script was serviceable, the premise was simple and to the point, and the cast was pretty awesome all around, having fun with the clichés and making for a solid romp of cops and robbers. Colin Farrell is one of Hollywood's underrated leading men, and Jeremy Renner worked well as the disgruntled villain of the flick. The film also managed to present the action pretty well considering the early 21st century quirk of making absolutely EVERYTHING a PG-13 affair.
S.W.A.T.: Firefight is a sequel in name and catchy theme song alone. It pretty much takes what worked about the original film—the charisma, earnest characters, semi-plausible action, and high energy—and chucks it into a dumpster behind the 7-11 before setting it on fire. The writing is more or less universally terrible, relying on trite action film cliché to propel the plot forward. I found myself frustrated and confused at character actions throughout the film; If Cutler is supposed to be such a proper and official cop, why the hell doesn't he ever bother telling his superiors that the homicidal maniac they just let walk is making phone calls to his home number and happens to know where he lives? Then, when the truth gets out, guys in black suits show up and the department just backs down? YEAH RIGHT! Then there's the usual territorial macho bullshit that always drives me insane in these flicks. Are we dealing with professional law-enforcement, or a group of warehouse workers? The actors do what they can with the material, but they lack the wisdom or charisma to carry the half assed screenplay. Robert Patrick's villain is supposed to be a black ops secret agent nightmare sort of master ninja assassin, and he's about as threatening as a milkman, or maybe the clerk at your local corner store.
On top of all that, the pacing is completely out of whack. The first film had the benefit of rapid cutting, slick, stylish visuals, and an incredibly swift moving plot that didn't mess around at all. Sadly, "Firefight" meanders when it should be moving forward, and when it does move forward, it does so in a slipshod fashion. The plot just sort of spins its wheels, and when it does move ahead, it does so in fits and starts.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The affair isn't a total loss. director Benny Boom brings all of his considerable (or assumed to be considerable) music video talents to bare, which makes for some markedly flashy visuals that are definitely a step or two above the average direct to DVD crap. The film's titular firefights are brief, but they're handled quite well, and actually feature some decent juicy bits. Sony's DVD treatment is rock solid as well, with a razor sharp image that captures the grit and oversaturated colors about as well as the format can. The audio follows suit with a booming mix that pumps when the carnage hits. The only extra is a brief behind the scenes featurette, but it's earnest enough, and doesn't feel like the usual promotional fluff.
When S.W.A.T.: Firefight works, it actually works pretty well. Sadly, the solid cast, decent action, and a stellar audio/visual package can't make up for the film's script hang-ups. Go in expecting direct-to-video garbage, and you may be pleasantly surprised. However, if you were one of the other five fans of the original film (myself included), don't expect anything resembling a worthy follow-up to a movie most considered mediocre to begin with.
S.W.A.T.? Hah, more like traffic enforcement.
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