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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
S.W.A.T. (Superbit) (2003)

Hondo: You've been in that cage six months, shinin' boots and fixin' weapons, waitin' for a second chance. I got one. And I'm offerin' it to you.
Street: Fuller will never sign off on it.
Hondo: You let me deal with that paper-pushing punk. I want you on my team.

- Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: November 18, 2004

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Josh Charles, Olivier Martinez
Director: Clark Johnson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, and sexual references
Run Time: 01h:57m:08s
Release Date: October 26, 2004
UPC: 043396071636
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ CA-A D-

DVD Review

In recent years, Hollywood's obsession with turning network TV shows into big-screen epics has reached a fever pitch. It doesn't seem to matter whether the dramas or comedies merit the splashy cinematic treatment, as long as the studios believe the series can inspire sufficient nostalgia to ensure a profitable opening weekend. S.W.A.T. only lasted a season-and-a-half on ABC, yet in many ways its brief run helped make the fast-paced cop drama an ideal candidate for a theatrical makeover. With no iconic figures or landmark episodes etched in our consciousness, director Clark Johnson could salute the show without feeling compelled to rigidly adhere to its structure or honor the public's perception of a beloved character. Let's face it, when a series' most memorable aspect is its theme song, a director enjoys plenty of leeway in his interpretation of the material.

Unfortunately, the film version of S.W.A.T. never maximizes its potential. As a standard action flick, it's a hair above average, with all the requisite elements (chases, explosions, gun battles) shot with energy and flair. But it's saddled by a weak, implausible story that never takes advantage of the limitless situations the Special Weapons and Tactics team faces on a daily basis. Instead of adopting the "typical-day-in-the-life" approach, and following the force as it tackles an array of diverse missions, the film gets bogged down depicting the bungled capture and transfer of Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), a notorious French mobster, and how the hapless L.A.P.D. must call in an elite S.W.A.T. squad, led by the ever cool and cocky Sgt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), to clean up the mess. What starts as a standard security detail becomes more complex when Montel barks to a bank of TV cameras that he'll pay anyone $100 million if they'll cut him loose from custody. And we soon learn that's an offer even the most upstanding police officer can't refuse.

The film's first third chronicles the fall and rise of Jim Street (acted with edgy earnestness by Colin Farrell), who's booted off S.W.A.T. for disobeying a direct order during a hostage standoff. Relegated to gun-cleaning duty, Street is eventually rescued by Hondo, who admires his abilities and dedication to the force. Hondo hopes to put together the ultimate band of S.W.A.T. brothers, and, like Jake and Elwood Blues or Danny Ocean, cruises around L.A., handpicking such hotshots as "Deke" Kay (LL Cool J), T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), and Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt) to join his crew. (In a nod to 21st century diversity, he also selects a sister for the squad, Chris Sanchez, played with customary allure and pugnacity by Michelle Rodriguez.)

We see the inductees train, scuffle, bond, flirt, and pass their team exam with flying colors, but only witness a single mission. Sure, it's a doozy, but the task never quite rivets our attention. Having the S.W.A.T. team tackle a variety of less showy, more realistic incidents would have lent the film a grittier, more immediate feel, and provided a better sense of the everyday dangers these specialized officers face.

Refreshingly, S.W.A.T. keeps its action grounded and believable, steering clear of such cartoon accoutrements as superhuman stunts and superhero antics. Yet the movie's slick, overly polished presentation prevents it from escaping the action slush pile. The cardboard characters never grab our sympathies, and the climactic plot twist lacks any credible motivation.

Spirited performances predominate, with Jackson, Farrell, and LL Cool J supplying a potent dose of testosterone. Rodriguez softens the mix ever so slightly, but proves she's just as tough as the boys when it counts. The actors' appeal, however, can't overcome the shallow story or Johnson's pedestrian direction, and even diehard action buffs will have to fight the urge to yawn now and then. Like its network TV precursor, S.W.A.T. is painless, mildly entertaining eye candy, but it never delivers the sugar high we crave.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Although not as dazzling as some Superbit efforts, the S.W.A.T. transfer nevertheless impresses with bright, vivid colors, good clarity, and excellent attention to detail. Fleshtones look natural, black levels are rich and deep, and the spotless source material keeps viewers immersed in the action. Close-ups look wonderfully sharp, but long shots can be a tad fuzzy. Don't get me wrong, when compared to regular transfers, this is a superior effort; but the Superbit moniker raises the bar, magnifying the tiniest imperfections. S.W.A.T. won't harm the franchise, but other entries in the line possess a heftier "wow" factor.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Superbit titles feature both DTS and DD 5.1 tracks, and, as usual, DTS offers a wider, more detailed sonic field. Surprisingly, dialogue seemed a little muffled at times, but all the blockbuster audio effects—explosions, helicopters, shattered glass, gunfights—are terrifically rendered. The surround speakers kick in constantly, with superb directionality during shootouts and aerial sequences, and ambient effects nicely augment the track. Bass frequencies also enhance the audio, supplying oomph when necessary, but never adding superfluous rumbles. The music score enjoys solid presence, but always takes a back seat to the action.

The 5.1 track gets the job done, too, but doesn't showcase the subtleties that make DTS shine. More balanced and less dynamic, it also provides crystal clear audio and distinct directionality, and will surely satisfy those without DTS capabilities.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Typical of the Superbit line, no extras are included, as disc space is designated solely for video and audio quality.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Even the bells and whistles of Superbit can't sufficiently perk up S.W.A.T., which suffers from a subpar story and shallow characters. Although the video and audio transfers meet the high standards of Superbit, the film remains mired in mediocrity. Only action addicts and fans of the TV original should consider renting this lightweight police yarn.

 


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