If this movie was going to be sold in a grocery store, it would be in a plain white box with black letters that say, “GENERIC SUMMER EXPLOSION MOVIE.” It is as predictable as the rhymes in a limerick, but as predictably entertaining as well. There are no surprises in the story, but the action sequences deliver the goods that audiences for this film are there to receive.
The story follows Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) — the character names taken from the TV show give you an idea of the level of creative inspiration here — Special Weapons and Tactics officers who get into trouble in a hostage situation when Gamble shoots without authorization. They are thrown off of the SWAT squad, and Gamble quits in disgust. Street stays on, willing to serve time in the gun cage and earn his way back onto SWAT. Gamble feels betrayed.
Hondo Harrison (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SWAT commander, is called back into action and assembles a new team, including Street, Deke (LL Cool J), and Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez). We get to see them bond in a generic training montage and pass their big test just in time for the biggest SWAT challenge ever. An international dealer in drugs, weapons, and every sort of generic bad thing has offered a reward of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail. This attracts every kind of thug and the ones with no idea about what they are doing are just as big a threat as the ones who do.
It is a shame to assemble a high-powered cast of some of the most talented and charismatic people in Hollywood and then not give them any opportunities to let them show us what they can do. There is nothing distinctive about the characters (they are, yes, generic), despite brief attempts to sketch in some details by showing one with a child, another on a date, and some tender partings when the officers’ beepers go off. All these moments do is make stupifyingly obvious the supposed surprise plot twist half an hour before it occurs. Even more obvious is a “You’re Chris Sanchez?” surprise that the officer played by Rodriguez is a woman; this from someone who is supposed to have selected her by reading through her file.
Parents should know that the movie has extensive action peril and violence (not much blood, not too graphic). Characters are hurt and killed. There are some bad words. There are sexual references and situations, but nothing explicit. A character barfs onscreen. Suicide is portrayed as an honorable choice following disgrace. There is a politically incorrect Polish joke.
Families who see this movie should talk about the choice the captain presented to Street and how he responded. When do you decide not to follow rules or orders? They should also talk about the other alternatives the character who commits suicide might have chosen.
Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at the original television series, S.W.A.T. – The Complete First Season, now available on DVD. they will also enjoy The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven.