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Jim Street (Colin Farrell) is a former S.W.A.T. team member, who along with his partner Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), is thrown off the team in the aftermath of a controversial decision they made during a robbery/hostage standoff. Gamble quits the force in disgust, but for Street, being a policeman is his life and he agrees to a demotion, hoping to someday have the chance to redeem himself and once again wear the privileged S.W.A.T. uniform. He gets that chance when team commander Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) is assigned to recruit and train five top-notch officers for a new Special Weapons and Tactics unit. After weeks of rigorous physical training, the new team is immediately thrown into action when a notorious drug lord, offers a $100 million bounty to anyone who can free him from police custody. As they escort the kingpin out of Los Angeles into the hands of the Feds, the S.W.A.T. team is pursued by a ruthless and well-armed band of mercenaries.
For more about S.W.A.T. and the S.W.A.T. Blu-ray release, see S.W.A.T. Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 15, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner
Director: Clark Johnson (I)
» See full cast & crew
S.W.A.T. Blu-ray Review
This Blu-ray edition of 'S.W.A.T.' provides decent visuals and a fantastic sound mix.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 15, 2008
You're either S.W.A.T. or you're not.
Here we go again, another 1970s television series turned 21st century motion picture, updated with all the bells, whistles, buff bodies, and appropriate diversification of its stars to make sure an otherwise mediocre action picture will draw as many patrons to theaters as possible. Sadly, I was one of those many patrons, choosing to see this film theatrically at the time rather than the vastly smarter and superior Seabiscuit. S.W.A.T. isn't a terrible film, it's just generic, depending on admittedly exciting action sequences and buff bodies attached to "pretty faces" to sell tickets rather than relying on an interesting story, well-developed characters, smart direction, or any number of criteria necessary when creating a successful movie. I'm all for dumb action, but sometimes the concept just doesn't work. S.W.A.T. is loud and slick enough to hold an action junkie's interest for a viewing every few years, an interval long enough to forget just how mediocre the movie is.
S.W.A.T. begins with what appears to be a recreation of the infamous North Hollywood Shootout of 1997, a shootout that featured heavily armed bank robbers squaring off with less-than-adequately armed police officers, at least until the S.W.A.T. team arrived. Disobeying orders, hotshot officer Gamble (Jeremy Renner, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford) shoots a hostage (see Jack Traven in Speed) and ends the standoff, and subsequently finds himself off the force. His partner, Officer Street (Colin Farrell, The Recruit) agrees that Gamble is too reckless and their relationship becomes a strained one, and Street is demoted to working the gun cage. Meanwhile, bad press about the department has created the need to form a new, highly skilled, no-nonsense team to show what S.W.A.T. is all about. It's led by the old-school Sergeant Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson, Jumper) and will eventually consist of Street, Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez, Resident Evil), and Deke (LL Cool J, Any Given Sunday). The team proves their worth in training and is soon called upon to escort a high-value prisoner named Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez, Blood and Chocolate) who offers anyone willing to fight for his freedom $100 million. He has many takers, including a few who surprise Hondo's elite team, and the unit must fight for their lives and justice during an exciting final showdown.
What S.W.A.T. lacks in brains it makes up for with braun, showcasing some exciting action sequences, as trite as they may be. Exciting visuals, big stunts, expensive set pieces, and large explosions can only take a movie so far. Even a film such as Commando that is definitely less refined and glitzy compared to S.W.A.T. has something going for it that is clearly lacking here: heart. Commando seems made for the love of the action genre, giving fans exactly what they want to see--pure, unadulterated, raw action. With S.W.A.T., fans are presented with a wholly-Hollywood film that seems gleaned from a mishmash of source materials, trying to sneak in everything from the ultra-hip, tough female who badly wants to be the next Jeannette Goldstein (who played the character "Vazquez" in Aliens, perhaps the baddest, coolest, and toughest female soldier in movie history) to the wealthy-yet-boring villain (who is supposed to have us asking what we would do if presented with the offer he makes in the film) to the headlining "pretty boy" Colin Farrell who plays the part of a Special Weapons and Tactics Officer fairly, but never immerses himself in the role enough to make us forget that he's Mr. Farrell and not Officer Street. Even the legendary Samuel L. Jackson can't do much of anything with this material, certainly not good enough to let him run wild and turn in an all-time great performance as seen in Pulp Fiction, or bad enough to allow him to have fun with it as seen in Snakes on a Plane. No, this script, and everything that came after it, is about as pedestrian as can be. S.W.A.T. might be the most average action film of the decade so far, a showcase for what happens when a decent enough idea is put on the back burner in favor of flashy effects, loud music and handsome actors who oftentimes seem lost in their roles. Good enough to watch but bad enough to forget, S.W.A.T. represents the action genre at its most mediocre.
S.W.A.T. Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 2.40:1 widescreen, this early high-definition release from Sony provides a decent enough image, but certainly not one to wow Blu-ray audiences by today's standards. There are many scenes throughout the movie that clearly demonstrate the superiority of Blu-ray and 1080p, and others that simply get the job done, displaying the image but without any flair or eye-popping brilliance. Much of the movie has a blue tint to it, especially early on, a tint that blends in well with the S.W.A.T. colors, from the blue of their body armor to the blue of their vehicles. Flesh tones appeared natural and clean. Black levels are fantastic, appearing rich and very dark, a natural and deep black, but heavy grain fields often accompany the darkest of scenes. Although many images are crisp and sharp, many others appear overly soft and dull, the result a flat, one-dimensional look that lacks crispness and fine detail, and this seems most apparent in low-lit sequences. A dinner scene in chapter six, for example, exhibits all of the symptoms, the poor lighting of the scene resulting in an image that fails to provide clarity and fine detail but does show very soft edges and is generally dull and lifeless. Likewise, a subsequent scene of the S.W.A.T. members in a training facility classroom sports much the same look and feel. Several scenes are so dark, in fact (especially some near the end of the movie), that I could not help but be reminded of the look of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the difference being that that release offered incredible detail and depth even in the darkest of scenes. Action taking place in broad daylight fares the best in S.W.A.T., but the remainder of the image is definitely lacking. A fair transfer, this one seems like it could have been much better, but for an early Blu-ray release on a 25GB disc and encoded in MPEG-2, this one looks about as good as one could expect.
S.W.A.T. Blu-ray, Audio Quality
S.W.A.T. explodes onto Blu-ray with a fantastic PCM 5.1 uncompressed sound mix, one that is active and very well designed. There is nothing quite like a well-mixed shootout scene, and we've got one right off the bat. From the very beginning of the movie, the listener is treated to a barrage of activity as the police and S.W.A.T. team takes on a few heavily-armed thugs with automatic weapons. Gunfire reverberates with thumps from the subwoofer, and shell casings hit the ground with a loud, clear clank. Sounds are placed in speakers so well that we feel like part of the action as gunshots hit us from all around. Not only is imaging excellent, but so are pans. We clearly hear movement from one speaker to the next, and it's natural and clear, not forced, phony, and distracting. A scene where the team is sniping at playing cards features some terrific use of sound as bullets whiz past our heads and impact into the rear of the listening area, a fun experience in film but one that would definitely prove frightening in real life. Just as wonderful as the sound can be, it can also turn dull and quiet on a dime. Immediately after the training scenario involving terrorists on a plane, the music goes from a pulse-pounding, dance house beat to a very quiet celebration music, sounding almost like the volume had been turned way down on my receiver. Other nuances are rendered just fine, such as dialogue reproduction and minor discreet sound effects and ambience. While not the very best mix I've heard, this one truly shows the benefit of having a full-blown surround system, and the lossless audio really lets it stretch its legs and run, showing just what a well-planned mix can do to add a whole other dimension to the movie watching experience.
S.W.A.T. Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sony has skimped on the extras for this Blu-ray release of S.W.A.T.. Unlike the DVD version which contained two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and four featurettes amongst others, only the deleted scenes are ported over here, oddly enough, perhaps due to the movie being presented on a 25GB disc rather than a 50GB. The scenes are rather short, averaging only thirty seconds or so, and are presented in 480p standard definition. 1080p trailers for Stealth, Underworld: Evolution, and xXx are the only other extras on the disc.
S.W.A.T. Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There is just enough excitement to make the experience of screening S.W.A.T. a decent one, but there are far better ways to spend two hours of your Saturday action movie marathons. Perhaps the movie's biggest drawback is its pacing. The opening action sequence and the final 40 minutes or so of the movie prove most entertaining, but the middle hour seems to drag, something I noticed both the first time I saw this film theatrically and now again on Blu-ray. Trimming it down to about 100 minutes might improve the film greatly, because what's here is certainly entertaining enough if only the pace in the middle act of the film could live up to that in the first and the third. This movie is definitely worth checking out, and if extras are of no concern to you this Blu-ray edition is the best way to see this movie. Offering slightly above average video quality and an awesome audio mix, S.W.A.T. makes for a mostly enjoyable high-definition experience. The lack of supplements may be enough to leave some viewers wanting to hang onto their DVD copies of this film, but those concerned only with audio and video qualities, especially those with the ability to hear lossless or uncompressed audio, will want to give this disc a spin. S.W.A.T. is a movie worth watching once, and I'd recommend renting this disc before making a decision to purchase.
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