Cops have come in for a rough ride recently, that's for sure. In Training Day they were ruthless drug-pushers. In Dark Blue they were corrupt double-dealers. In Narc they were family-wreckers. In Bad Boys II, they were Martin Lawrence.
But this proudly generic cop actioner steams in to balance the scales with a shameless burst of hoo-hah heroism. Ditching police-procedural drama for Rambo plod work, SWAT protects and serves via the way of the gun. For these boys (and girl), ensuring public safety generally means spraying bullets with gleeful impunity. It's fantasy fascism with all-American heroes.
Yup, we're talking a 117-minute salvo of cop-movie clichés. You know, the ageing, streetwise sergeant (Samuel L Jackson) who recruits an elite team of mavericks and misfits including sexy sharpshooter Colin Farrell and the street-talkin' wideboy LL Cool J... The spiteful desk-jockey captain (Larry Poindexter) who doesn't know what it's like out on the street... The Eurotrash super-crim (Olivier Martinez) with a rap sheet that reads like the Marquis De Sade's `To Do' list... Lots of macho posturing followed by lots of MTV training sequences followed by lots of lock'n'load gung-hoing...
But look, you know what you want when you hand over cash to see a movie like this. You want the trailer - - only you want it to last longer. Well, mission accomplished. Making his debut, small-screen helmer Clark Johnson (Homicide, The Shield) upgrades the duff '70s TV show with efficient relish, starting out with a tense opening hostage heist and keeping the gunfire, crashes and chases in free-flow.
Still, even if scripters David Ayer (Training Day) and David McKenna (American History X) give lead man Farrell his share of wisecracks, outside the sensory GBH, SWAT's plotless action does stumble. There's zero emotional tug despite a fleeting love angle between Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez's sulky single mum. So count this as a pitstop on Farrell's race to stardom and yet another clock-puncher for Samuel L Jackson, who just seems to be waiting for his next role in a Tarantino film.
In fact, for once it's not the Irishman or SLJ who weighs in with the baaad-boy charisma. Crashing the party with real swagger, shifty Jeremy Renner (Dahmer) provides the movie with a much-needed flash of snarling personality. It's just a shame that the rogueish Renner isn't given more screen time - - you can't help feeling that SWAT could have been a meaner, edgier thriller if he was let off the leash.
Or maybe you won't give a damn. With machine-gun editing and a lairy, pulsing soundtrack, there's a helicopter crash or gangland firefight hard on the heels of every dip in tempo. A noisy cartoon, then: loud, silly and action-packed.