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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » S.W.A.T. - Special Edition
S.W.A.T. - Special Edition
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // December 30, 2003
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 11, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Every one of "SWAT"'s trailers offered a fairly interesting premise for an action movie - a rich criminal boasts to TV reporters that he will pay 100 million (or, as actor Oliver Martinez says it, "One handred meeellion!") dollars to whoever can free him from LAPD custody (he gets into LAPD custody for riding with a broken taillight, then stays there when they realize who he is). So, it's no surprise when most of LA's criminal population hits the streets to take him up on the offer.

Unfortunately, that's not much of the movie. The film, based upon a 70's TV show, lurches through a good hour of build-up, character introductions, "putting together the team", lackluster drama and formula (the second string who have to prove themselves, macho fights between teammates, the cliched tough captain who won't listen to logic, etc.) before the main plot finally is rolled out. The film opens with a hostage situation at a bank, stopped by the risky actions of Gamble (Jeremy Renner) that end up getting himself and his partner, Street (Colin Farrell) in deep trouble. After months working in the cage at the local station, Street is approached by Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson) to be one of the members of his new SWAT team, which includes Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), Deke Kay (LL Cool J), Boxer (Brian Van Holt) and McCabe (Josh Charles).

Director Clark Johnson, making his feature debut here after a run on TV that included directing episodes of "Homicide", "The Shield" and "The Wire", tries to make this a larger episode of a tv-esque drama and a Summer action movie. The result is not terribly successful at either. It's not all Johnson's fault, either: the script by the usually-good David McKenna ("Blow") and David Ayer ("Training Day", "U-571") throws together some laughable dialogue (Hondo is the "gold standard of ass kicking.") and does little with the film's main story turn.

As for action, the film manages a few decent scenes, such as the breakout and a fairly well-staged finale involving a plane on a bridge in LA. Unfortunately, there's also a lengthy chase through a sewer, which seems like a fairly uninspired and low-key sequence to have in a movie that cost $75 million.

The film's performances aren't the the best from anyone involved, or even the best they've offered recently. However, they're not terrible, either. Farrell is generally commanding and provides a satisfactory, straightforward performance. He and Jackson also click well together, especially in an early sequence where they ride together, looking for new recruits. Rodriquez and LL Cool J aren't bad, but they've got little to work with.

Overall, "SWAT" isn't terrible, but it's certainly still a disappointment. Although the film boasts good actors that do give it a try, they're given little to work with in a cliched, predictable script.


VIDEO: "SWAT" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Columbia/Tristar. Although by all means a superb presentation in many regards, there were still a few bothersome issues scattered throughout the show. Sharpness and detail remained positive, as definition remained impressive and impressively consistent; fine details were often visible, as well.

The flaws with the transfer were not terribly distracting, but they were enough to cause concern. Mild amounts of edge enhancement were seen in several scenes, while a few instances of compression artifacts also turned up. On a positive note, the print, as expected from a recent release, remained pristine.

Colors looked fine, as well, appearing well-saturated and crisp. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate.

SOUND: "SWAT" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Despite the film's slow first half, this still remains a fairly aggressive soundtrack that delivers a fine amount of surround use, as both ambient sounds and more explosive sound effects are delivered by the rear speakers.

Additionally, the surrounds do a nice job of backing both Elliot Goldenthal's moderately enjoyable score and the less pleasing song selection. Audio quality remained as good as one can expect from a major Summer picture - dialogue remained well recorded, while sound effects were crisp and packed a punch. While not among the most remarkable big-budget soundtracks I've heard lately, this one still delivered well.


Commentary: This is a commentary from actors Josh Charles, Samuel L. Jackson, Brian Van Holt, Michelle Rodriquez and LL Cool J, along with director Clark Johnson. The actors have been recorded together, while the director's comments have been edited in. The actors don't provide a great deal of insight, but they do sound like they're having a great deal of fun together, joking about various tidbits in scenes and commenting on how they think the final film turned out. Director Clark Johnson provides a good counterpoint to the fun of the actor's discussions, filling in with a lot of good information about casting, production issues, technical details and what drew him to the film. I was a little surprised that this commentary (which was recorded before the movie was released), with all its participants, had several gaps of silence, but it still was an enjoyable listen.

Commentary 2: This is a commentary from David McKenna, David Ayer, Ron Mita and Jim McClain. All four are writers - the first two got screenplay credit on the film, while the second two have "story by" credits. The "story by" writers have been involved with the project for years, and discuss the original pitches/ideas behind the film. The second pairing also discuss their inspirations for the film and thoughts on the final film. The commentary is light in tone and quite informative - I especially liked hearing about the multi-writer process on a film like this - one of the writers talks about never meeting the others before sitting down to write the commentary.

Anatomy of a Shootout: This 9-minute documentary discusses how director Clark Johnson tried to get a gritty, intense look for the visual style of the opening shootout. We also learn more about how the production proceeded to try and film the complex sequence in a terribly short matter of time. Although rather short, this featurette gets right to the point and gives the viewer a good overview of all the planning, training and work required for the scene.

TV's Original Supercops: A promo/featurette for the original show, now on DVD.

Making of "SWAT": This is a 21-minute documentary that starts off in rather unpromising fashion, as the participants discuss the story and how much they wanted to work with each other. The documentary eventually starts getting more informative, going into the actor's training and production issues for the major scenes, but it takes a good 10 minutes before it gets going into those matters.

Deleted Scenes: 8 deleted scenes, including an extended opening. No commentary offered.

6th St. Bridge: This is a 5-minute featurette on the film's finale.

Gag Reel: A 3-minute gag reel that's quite funny, complete with jokes, missed lines and goofiness.

Sounds of SWAT: This 4-1/2 minute featurette discusses the film's sound recording and audio effects work. The featurette has interviews with the film's supervising sound editor and also, footage of the audio recording on location. The second half of the piece discusses the film's sound design, complete with demonstration of the different aspects of the mix. In this section, you'll also find brief featurettes on the film's weapons and four audio breakdowns, which allow viewers to listen to four different audio effects layers for four different clips from the film.

Trailers: Trailers for "Bad Boys II", "TV Action Favorites", "Once Upon a Time in Mexico", "Radio", "Underworld" and "Big Fish".

Final Thoughts: "SWAT" has moments, but its first half is terribly slow at times and the cast's attempts are wasted on a script that's largely predictable and unoriginal. Columbia/Tristar's DVD provides a lot of supplements and above-average audio/video quality. Still, this one's more of a rental.

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