Thursday, July 28, 2011

Diversion 2.0 Thirty Day Movie Challenge -- Day 10

Day 10 – An Action Movie

As a man, I would be remiss if I didn’t enjoy movies involving explosions. Granted, most films released nowadays, even romances and comedies, involve explosions in some shape or form, but I’m talking about the ones tailor-made for explosion-watching: the action movie. They range from campy, to brooding, to somewhere in between, but they all had better feature a GD explosion somewhere along the line. Many high-profile titles are worth discussing here, but I’m going to talk about one of my favorite, under-the-radar movies where stuff gets blow’d up real good.

S.W.A.T. (2003)

It was 2003, and my parents were on vacation in New York, leaving me to fend to myself with my grandma. Rather than sinking into ultimate domesticity, I used this time to turn south Missoula into my oyster, leaving the house sometime in the morning and not returning until dark. Among other things, my grandma’s house is located near two movie theaters (a regular six-screen and a now-closed dollar theater), and I took in several flicks during my interim of ultimate freedom, including S.W.A.T.

S.W.A.T. is a remake of/movie-inspired-by the 70’s TV series of the same name. The film opens with a bank heist, as two SWAT operatives, Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), attempt to curb the efforts of the North Hollywood shootout-pretenders. Street and Gamble manage to diffuse the situation, but a hostage is injured in the process, and both receive demotions—Street accepts his, while Gamble leaves the force. Street spends his days working in the LAPD gun cage, until Sgt. Daniel “Hondo” Harrison (Samuel L. Jackson) turns up to recruit him for his SWAT team. Street agrees, and is soon joined by Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), Deacon Kaye (LL Cool J), T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), and Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt).

Meanwhile, a drug lord of indiscernible national origin named Alexander Montel (Oliver Martinez) is captured and brought to prison, though not before announcing to the world that he will give $100 million to the party that frees him. With such a high profile prisoner, LAPDs plan to move Montel into more secure, federal jurisdiction, and it’s up to Hondo and Street to make sure that happens.

For me, the highlight of the movie is the series of training sequences undertaken by Street and crew, culminating in a faux-airplane takeover.

Not only is it an action movie, but it’s a cop action movie! Are we clichéd or what today? I rather like it though, and here’s why: while many action flicks go above and beyond the call of duty to provide over-the-top, fiery thrills (e.g., Michael Bay’s entire filmography), S.W.A.T. is content to let things play out “realistically.” “Realistically” is in quotes because, while there are still several flights of fancy (the word is used deliberately), the characters in S.W.A.T. generally behave like they’re working, above-average police dudes. Compare this to Bad Boys II, another cop movie from 2003, where Will Smith and Martin Lawrence leap through the air like Max Payne with a jetpack. “Rolls are for John Woo movies, not real life,” quips Jackson’s character during an early scene, and the S.W.A.T. tends to follow his train of thought regarding what’s possible.

The movie is competently acted all-around. Jackson struts his swaggery tough guy act that he can probably, by now, perform in his sleep, Farrell provides a grounded, confident base for Jim Street, and rest of the players all function more or less like they’re expected to (Rodriguez does yet another Girl Fight role reprise, LL Cool J carries himself with all of the cocky, fun showboating found in his music, etc.). The actual “action” scenes are relatively minor compared to, say, Transformers, but they’re paced well and get the job done—at no point does S.W.A.T. ask the film-goer to be Impressed!, and I appreciate the sense of reservation on the film’s part, like it’s confident enough in its thrills that it never feels like forcing the issue.

S.W.A.T. apparently made over $200 million across all of its various markets, but barely made it onto DVD, let alone the annuls of movie history. Shame, really, because S.W.A.T. provides many small pleasures unseen by recent action flicks, and is well-worth renting for some light summertime entertainment

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