In 10 Words or Less
Full of sound and fury…signifying something.
I freely admit that this is the first Superbit title I've checked out (though I guess that's not entirely true, since Punch-Drunk Love is listed as an SB, but it's a two-disc set with decent extras), so I don't exactly understand the attraction. As a reviewer, I'm supposed to care about how good a disc looks and sounds (believe me, I do) but I've never been comfortable with the concept of giving up good extras for a slight boost in video bitrate. I don't need an optimum presentation. Just make it look good, get me a commentary, and I'm a happy man.
Just like Superbit, I put off checking out S.W.A.T. when it came out late last year, despite a kick-ass trailer and a pretty cool DVD package. I just didn't find myself needing to watch another cop movie, another action film, or another movie based on an old TV show. After watching this disc, I'm not kicking myself, but I definitely didn't have to worry about watching this well-made action thriller.
Aside from the actual creation of the S.W.A.T. team, there are a lot of characters with stories to establish in this movie, from Street (Colin Farrell), a police officer whose former partner thinks he sold him out, to Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), a criminal mastermind busted for a broken tail light. Once it's established that Street may not be trustworthy and Montel is willing to pay a hefty fee to be broken out of jail, the cops' efforts to transport Montel to prison can start in earnest.
The film posits that several criminal groups will vie for the money, but that concept is abandoned in exchange for one massive battle scene that actually paid off in a way much difference, and more satisfying than expected. From there, it's a rush to the finish to see how many plot twists can be tucked in between stunts, until the final climactic moment when a plane, a bridge and bunch of guns come together to put an exclamation point on the movie.
For a movie mainly about a group of individuals, the movie only closes the door on one character's story, and that's not exactly a moment the story really builds to. It sort of just happens. The rest of the guys just see their stories end when the credits unfurl. A lack of closure makes a somewhat soulless film feel a bit more empty. There were a lot of opportunities to create something special with a quality cast, a skilled director and a concept that recalled the tension of Assault on Precinct 13, but the final product fell quite short.
This is a Superbit release, which means you get the movie and very low-key menus that are reminiscent of the first-generation DVDs. Scene selections (with static menus) and audio and subtitle options are listed. Audio is in Dolby 5.1 and DTS, while the subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai. The keepcase includes a promotional Superbit insert, and is enclosed in a silver-"foil" embossed open-ended slipcase.
I don't have a basis for comparing the two releases of S.W.A.T., but considering the amount of extras on the first release, I find it impossible to believe that the first DVD could have come close to this release in terms of video quality. There simply wasn't enough space to match the encoding. But I also believe my fellow DVDTalker Aaron Beierle, who, in his original review, said the video was "superb." The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen video on the new release is excellent, reproducing the gritty, stylistic look of the film, right down to the different film stocks used in the opening scene. There was no visible evidence of any digital conversion problems, nor was any edge enhancement obvious. This is a very dark film in many spots, demanding a proper presentation, and this disc delivered, with excellent color and detail. (Note: In comparing with Mr. Beierle's review, I notice a change in the aspect ratio, from 2.35:1 to 2.40:1.)
In terms of the audio, the soundtrack packs the punch expected of a big action film, with plenty of activity to the sides and rear. Of course, the sound effects from the big action sequences, including the massive mid-film battle, are the most impressive part of the track, but the rest of the movie is presented just as well, though not quite as aggressively. Dialogue is delivered front and center, keeping the oh-so-important...and-witty-too dialogue crisply separate from the rest of the noise that makes up this movie. The differences between the Dolby 5.1 track and the DTS track are somewhat subtle, but it's easy to tell that the DTS track allows you to "feel" the sound a bit better, with heavier bass and better directional effects.
Nothing. Aside from the menus, every bit of space on this DVD is devoted to the film's presentation. The original release was fully-loaded, with a very good transfer, so in this aspect, this release is a bit of a disappointment. But that's Superbit.
The Bottom Line
In a time when action films tend to be a succession of stunts strung along a thread of plot, S.W.A.T.'s unique, since its action is actually part of the plot. Even better, that action is well-done, with two set pieces that really delivered. While the story can drag at times, the cast is quite good, which is an accomplishment, considering the material isn't exactly Grade A. I can't really imagine that this film has an audience that was clamoring for a Superbit presentation, especially after a very well-done first release, so a rental is a good idea before diving in for an increased bit rate and complete lack of extras.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.