Cinema Signal:

Hollywood's Unsolved Mysteries

. "S.W.A.T."

Just when I was wondering what life must be like among the men (and women?) of a S.W.A.T. team comes this dramatization of it out of the pixel myths of an old TV series. I'm not sure this satisfies the wonderment, but director Clark Johnson keeps the adrenalin flowing and the testosterone boiling in a well paced action thriller that looks into the 911 gang for ordinary cops.

During a bank rescue operation, team officers Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) go against orders to back off for the protection of the civilians and penetrate the interior. Gamble, a loose cannon, takes out the robbers' leader but wounds his hostage. This provides the cliched plot point of coming under the wrath of an inept superior officer who cares less about his mens' need to make split-second decisions than how the outcome of an operation affects his standing with the chiefs above him. Capt. Thomas Fuller (Larry Poindexter), high on the hissable scale, suspends Gamble and moves Street to a menial job in the station's gun and boot polishing locker.

But, Street is so proficient with weapons and so outstanding a cop that he comes to the attention of ace commander Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), a S.W.A.T. legend (naturally) who has been transferred in order to put a new team together. Of course, he rehires Street for the job, making for all the usual competitive and funny dialogue of a buddy movie but, in the process, puts them snugly into the care-about category. These are our primary heroes, bonded by their own cop superiority, conflicts with the mind-numbing weakness of the boss and the sociopathic strengths of the bad guys.

The rest of the team fills out its various parts with the notable inclusion of Chris Sanchez ("Girlfight"'s Michelle Rodgiguez) sporting her tough style with a few laughs and suggestions of romance slipped in. The rest is training and skill development in S.W.A.T. boot camp, and then dealing with the threat of an international criminal wanted by Interpol, countering his various stratagems to escape federal prison. Swaggering Olivier Martinez ("Unfaithful") does justice to the portrayal of villainous deception, bringing on the helis, the ripping explosions and a jet plane on the 6th avenue bridge (Los Angeles).

With David Ayer's and David McKenna's agile screenplay and Michael Tronick's crisp editing, director Clark Johnson keeps the action and the story interest flowing without letting romance and other distracting details bog things down. A convincing cast, finely tuned cinematography by Gabriel Beristain, a loud pop score by composer Elliot Goldenthal, and I say, good job entertaining the civilians.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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