Sony continues to release nice mid-level action flick for their Blu-Ray
line. That's understandable, they don't want to put out big titles
while the players are still fairly rare in homes, but they still need to
give early adopters something worth watching. Their latest offering
is S.W.A.T., a 2003 film based on the 1975 TV series. While
this isn't a great film by any stretch, it's still a nice popcorn flick
with lots of big guns and several explosions that is a lot of fun to watch
even if it's soon forgotten.
Jim Street (Colin Farrell) is one of the best members of a LAPD S.W.A.T.
(Special Weapons And Tactics) unit until he gets kicked off the squad when
his trigger happy partner disobeys orders during a raid and ends up shooting
a suspect. Not wanting to give his partner up, Street gets demoted
to pushing papers and cleaning weapons.
The LAPD has been getting a lot of bad press so the Chief of Police
manages to convince an old SWAT leader, Sgt. Dan 'Hondo' Harrelson (Samuel
L. Jackson) to come back and form a new SWAT group. Hondo recruits
a team of five seasoned officers who have what it takes. They all
play by the rules, except when the rules get in their way. Though
their administrative superior is hoping for them to fail, this new team
works like a well oiled machine and passes each test that's put in front
Things get harried when the local jail discovers that they're holding
a drug king pin who was arrested for a minor traffic violation and was
being held under an assumed name. When his compatriots fail to free
him, brought down by Hondo's SWAT team of course, he shouts into the news
cameras that he'll pay $100 million to anyone who can free him. Everyone
tries for the prize and fails, but when Street's old partner decides he's
like the cash the SWAT team has to go up against someone with all of their
training and experience.
Though this was a fairly predictable movie (would anyone be surprised
if I said that Street ends up fighting his old partner hand-to-hand at
the end?) it was still enjoyable. Though my wife had no interest
in seeing this movie, I had fun watching the gun battles that always seem
to end with an explosion or two. If you are looking for more than
that, keep looking 'cause you won't find it here.
The acting from the ensemble cast, that also included Michelle Rodriguez,
LL Cool J, and Josh Charles, was very good, though you could tell they
were all in the movie for the big paycheck. Samuel Jackson plays
the tough-but-fair character that he often plays and he does a good job.
Farrell is also adequate as the bright and devoted young officer.
No one is going to win any awards, but they won't be embarrassed by their
When all is said and done this is a solid, if ultimately forgettable,
action film. There are a lot of exciting scenes, some cool battles,
and not a lot of time wasted on things like plot or characterization.
If you're looking for a simple but fun movie, you could do worse than this.
Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this
review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design,
and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which
creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, or even an official
announcement from Samsung.
The 2.40:1 widescreen image looks good overall but is a bit of a mixed
bag. Some of the scenes are excellent and really have that HD 'pop'.
The shooting contest at the beginning, for example. The green grass
is bright and vivid and the men running through the field have that 3D
look that makes HD video so impressive. Other scenes, though these
are the minority, appear flat and lifeless. The scene where bad guy
Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) meets greets his uncle in a restaurant is
a good example of this. The uncle seems to blend in with the background
and the scene lacks the definition that it should have. Happily these
are infrequent. The night scenes which fill the movie generally look
good, with a good amount of detail even in the shadows. While this
isn't a perfect transfer it is very good overall and not a disappointment
like many of the earlier releases.
This disc comes with an uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack as well as DD
5.1 tracks in English and French. I viewed the film with the PCM
soundtrack and it was very nice. The mix is very active, with effects
and background music always present, and the film makes good use of the
entire soundstage. The mix is clean and clear and fits the movie
It's going to be hard to convince people to switch over to Blu-Ray discs
when they only offer a small portion of the bonus items that appear on
the SD DVDs. The regular DVD included a commentary with director
Clark Johnson and actors Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt,
Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, and Michelle Rodriguez and a second commentary
track with the screen writers and technical consultants. There were
also four featurettes (!) and a further extra on creating the sound for
the movie. What's on the Blu-ray disc? Eight deleted scenes
(that also appear on the SD DVD.) As disappointing as that is, it
gets worse. There isn't a 'play all' button, so you have to select
a scene, wait for it to load, watch the 30 seconds clip, wait for the menu
to load, and then repeat the process with the next scene. This gets
old really fast and it seems that more time is spent on waiting for things
to load than actually watching the clips. These deleted scenes aren't
in HD of course, and what's worse is that they aren't anamorphic. Normally
I wouldn't mind that on deleted scenes, but the Samsung BD-P1000
will not output video in anything but 16:9 (even if the player is set for
a 4:3 output), so it stretches the 4:3 image. This makes everyone
short and fat. Ugh.
Like most, if not all, of the recent movies based on old TV shows, S.W.A.T
isn't a great film, but it's not a horrible one either. With only
a basic plot and cardboard characters, the movie has to make up for these
deficits with some big budget action scenes and it manages to do that.
The Blu-Ray disc looks pretty good overall, better than many of the earlier
releases, with some very nice looking scenes that makes you realize you're
watching an HD disc. If Sony had ported all of the extras from the
SD version over the disc would be stronger. I'm really getting tired
of the minimal extras on these Blu-Ray discs. With those caveats
in mind, this disc would make a good rental.