Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > S.W.A.T. (2003/Blu-ray)

S.W.A.T. (2003/Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C-     Film: C



I was very disappointed with Clark Johnson’s recent thriller The Sentinel (reviewed on DVD elsewhere on this site), but the career TV director fared a little better with the feature film version of the TV series S.W.A.T. (2003).  The series itself was a spin-off of The Rookies and was an early TV hit perpetuated by its theme song being a hit single for Rhythm Heritage back in 1976.  Four writers including Training Day’s David Ayer and David McKenna (American History X) wrote the screenplay and even they could not keep the story on track.  Thanks in part to a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Brian Van Holt and Oliver Martinez as a drug kingpin, the film has its moments.


After opening with a big action production sequence that involves some criminals being lured by a big robbery, the main story kicks in about the drug kingpin and how the S.W.A.T. gang captures him.  However, he wants revenge on all of them and offers $100 Million to anyone who gets him out of federal hands.  That plays more like “frontin’” by the writers than anything since this worked much better as an early sequence in the 1989 James Bond film Licence To Kill.  That is typical about how derivative the film is, but it gets worse.


They are playing the main characters from the original series, yet they somehow know the old series’ theme song (!?!) in yet another lame Top Gun-like juvenile sing-a-long sequence.  If they were that talented as characters, they could quit their high-risk job and become music composer/conductors like Barry De Vorzon, who wrote that theme.  That leaves us with another mess of a script and producers hoping the “they are such nice people, you could go out and have a drink with them” factor would somehow kick in and make this a hit.  Once again, that tired, populist fantasy does not gel with reality.  Instead, some very good actors and an opportunity to do a commercial film like this right are missed.


The original show took itself more seriously and still had humor and did not sacrifice cast chemistry.  Jackson playing the mentor yet again gets thin quickly and Farrell replaced a lesser actor at the last minute.  Johnson is not a bad director, but is unfortunately at this time only as good as his material.  As illogical, tired and formulaic the film gets, it somehow is still not as bad as the likes of TV remakes like  Dukes Of Hazard, Bewitched, The Avengers and others have turned out.  There will be no big sequel, nevertheless.


The film is an early Blu-ray entry simply because it tries to cover up its script limits with quick cuts, stylized shooting and punchy sound.  The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain, A.S.C., B.S.C., of the two Blade sequels and is not bad.  It is also not too memorable, with some lack of color and slight darkness in the frame too typical of this type of genre work today.  Now the most interesting thing is how good the un-degraded shots look, with their clarity, decent color and even some depth.  However, it jumps around so much that it cannot be enjoyed even for what it is, though it is still better than Farrell’s other TV-to-feature film project, Miami Vice.  More on that another time.


The PCM 5.1 16bit/48kHz sound mix is bass heavy with its Hip Hop center, yet there is also the counter-instrumental dramatic music score by Elliot Goldenthal (Alien 3, Batman Forever, Heat, Titus) that is not bad.  It could not save the film, but if the music had been worse, this would have been a major turkey.  However, the best sound moments are the gun battles, where al the speakers and bass kick in.  Too bad the rest of the mix is not as consistent or imaginative.  This makes for an interesting comparison to the DTS on the Superbit DVD edition which is at a higher bit measurement, but is a little more compressed.  Either way, it has its moments as an audio demo and that is the highpoint of this disc.


Eight deleted scenes are the only extra, but one could only expect so much and if the film becomes more popular after this edition, maybe they’ll expand it.  Until then, maybe the original TV show will hit Blu-ray.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com