As the summer winds down, the opening of action movies is becoming less frequent, but there are still a few that hope to create box office magic. “S.W.A.T.” could have been just one more film of explosions, car chases and endless stunts.

“S.W.A.T.” (the film) is nothing more than a remake of a ’70s TV program. The only group that might be nostalgic for the old series would be 30- and 40-something males who as school-aged boys yearned to hear the blaring theme song each week. Yet the film far exceeds any expectations that may have been birthed from memories of the TV series. 


So why does this film succeed over many other like films this summer? Why does it outshine the TV series on which it is based? The answer is simple: The filmmakers desired to make a good film.


“S.W.A.T.” has several things going for it. First, the filmmakers shot the action sequences, many of which are quite long, in a coherent way so that the audience can understand what is happening on screen. Other than one fight at the end that is shot at night and is sometimes confusing, all the other action is filmed in the light of day. There is little doubt ever about exactly what just happened on screen. 


Unfortunately, too many action films expect the audience to deduce what has happened with the information in the scene following the action. The action sequences in “S.W.A.T.” are the film’s greatest strength.


“S.W.A.T.” also works because of the cast. Led by stars Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell, this cast has fun with the material. They make their characters heroic without making them “super human.” These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the greater good of their community. “S.W.A.T.” would not have been as good a film without the very human performances.


The script of “S.W.A.T.” is sort of a mixed bag. First, the film is filled with cop-movie clichés: bad cop, traitor cop, young rebel, old mentor, tough female, dumb-and-mean superior. And the dialogue could have been infused with a little more humor.


However, the premise is a good one. The police arrest an international drug dealer/terrorist on a routine traffic stop. The terrorist then tells the world on camera that he will pay $100 million to anyone who helps him escape. Not a lot of depth to that story, but it is a great set-up for all the mayhem that will follow.


Is “S.W.A.T.” a film that will be remembered? In a summer when such wonderful films as “Finding Nemo,” “Seabiscuit” and “Whale Rider” have opened, it will be unfortunate if “S.W.A.T.” turns out to be the film people seek in the video store in a few months.


It does not even come close in quality to the best action films of the summer: “The Matrix Reloaded,” “X2: X-Men United” and “The Pirates of the Caribbean.”  “S.W.A.T.” is simply a good, fun, well-made, though ultimately forgettable ride at the movies. Several other filmmakers working in the action genre this summer should wish their films could be described in the same way.


Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.


Visit the movie’s official Web site.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and sexual references

Director: Clark Johnson

Writers: David Ayer and David McKenna

Cast: Hondo Harrelson: Samuel L. Jackson; Jim Street: Colin Farrell; Chris Sanchez: Michelle Rodriguez; Deke Kay: LL Cool J; T.J. McCabe: Josh Charles.


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