On Seen on TV
I had totally forgotten that there was a TV series about L.A. S.W.A.T. teams until I heard theme music I didn’t know I remembered in the score for S.W.A.T. and I was like, “Oh yeah, I watched that show.” I think it may have sucked, but I was like 8 or something, so I’m entitled to be forgiven for this transgression. It’s like if I admitted that I used to watch Fantasy Island, you could hardly fault me, because I was not of an age to make rational decisions about these things.
But there’d be no excuse now when it comes to S.W.A.T., yet another pointless exercise in ransacking 70s TV for half-hearted film adaptations. It’s not that S.W.A.T. is actively awful — it’s just sort of boring and completely predictable and a little bit laughable in its psychology. Mostly this is because everyone involved seems to be under the impression that this isn’t your typical idiotic action movie — despite the involvement of producer Neal Moritz, he of XXX and The Fast and the Furious fame — but that it is somehow a character drama that just happens to be about guys whose defining attribute is a deep and abiding love of powerful automatic weapons and enormous phallic tools that smash walls and cool cop uniforms where you tuck the pants into the boots.
What’s kinda ironic is that with all the excessive personalities onscreen, we should at least be entertained by the “characters” even if we don’t really care about them (which we don’t)… but we aren’t. You go into this film thinking, Cool, Sam Jackson is in this, and Colin Farrell, and Michelle Rodriguez, and LL Cool J, so this will rock even if it sucks. But two hours later you’re sitting there going, Wait, I thought Sam Jackson was in this. Rodriguez (Blue Crush, Resident Evil) does her tough-girl thing again, which is starting to be indistinguishable from the first ten times she did that, and LL Cool J (Deliver Us from Eva, Rollerball) — excuse me James Todd Smith Cougar Mellencamp — has little to do except reveal his washboard abs, which are very nice but he’s got a lot more going for him than that. Worst of all, this may be the first time I’ve seen Colin Farrell onscreen where I didn’t want to jump his bones, mostly because for all his screen time, it’s like he’s barely present at all.
Maybe that’s because Farrell’s (Daredevil, The Recruit) Jim Street is supposed to be kinda emasculated by his demotion from S.W.A.T. after an incident in which his partner, Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner, apparently Tobey Maguire’s evil brother), shot a civilian. He gets his mojo back, of course, when he is inevitably reinstated, but by then it was too late for me — he’d spent too much of the movie saying too many things outta bad cop shows, like “Gamble’s a good cop!” Plus there’s the problem of “symbolic naming” — “Street” for the rough-edged cop, “Gamble” for the one who takes chances — and an absurd French mobster (Olivier Martinez: Unfaithful) standing in as the bad guy. The overall effect really is like watching a lost episode of some crappy 70s TV show, one that was probably on Friday nights when all the cool people were out on the town and not home watching TV, that thinks its deep and dramatic and is really just cheaply made and sorta dull but you watched cuz there was nothing else on and today isn’t even remembered fondly enough to show up on late-night cable reruns.
If there’s one thing that sets S.W.A.T. apart in a world of cookie-cutter action movies that think they’re about characters, it’s that there’s more broken glass here than in any movie since Robocop. This is achieved precisely because S.W.A.T. thinks it’s about characters, which is probably the most entertaining thing about the whole affair. It kinda goes without saying that no plate-glass window in downtown Los Angeles is safe when the S.W.A.T. guys are around, but there’s nary a mirror or a picture frame that can avoid being smashed, either. You see, a “character” can be so agonized when accidentally seeing a photo of himself and his buddy in happier times that he can’t help but express his incoherent male rage by breaking things. A “character” can be so upset by the betrayal of a buddy that he has no recourse but to smash said buddy’s head into a mirror.
It really makes you feel a guy’s pain, you know what I mean?