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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan

from Film Forum, 08/14/03

Director Clark Johnson, who worked on such admired television series as Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, and The Shield, is at the helm of the new action film S.W.A.T., which is based on a popular television series from the '70s. He has a strong cast of stars, featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, and LL Cool J, and the result is drawing moderate applause from mainstream critics. The fairly routine summer actioner focuses on a drug lord who tries to escape police custody, only to find a formidable Special Weapons and Tactics team endeavoring to keep him in custody.

Holly McClure (Crosswalk) sums it up as "a great popcorn movie to enjoy on a hot summer day."

J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) finds something to admire in the film: "Johnson … thankfully foregoes most of the genre's clichés. What I liked best was that … the film takes the time to establish the sense of teamwork that goes into a real S.W.A.T. unit—how you have to trust the people around you, how each person brings his or her talents to bear." He concludes, however, that the film's finale is "disappointing. We get mayhem instead of planning, executing criminals instead of executing a game plan. It feels like a betrayal of everything that's come before."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) describes it as "a popcorn movie that, while enjoyable, will most likely fade from memory soon after the lights come up."

Ben Cornish (Christian Spotlight) observes "extreme violence far beyond its PG-13 rating." But he adds, "S.W.A.T. offers constructive insight on teamwork, greed, power of the media, and perseverance. However it is the theme of redemption that is most prominent."

"S.W.A.T. could be compared to a western of the early '60s," says Eric Rice (Movieguide). "One would expect gunplay and some rough talk. A mature Christian could perhaps enjoy this film without feeling slimed when he or she walks out of the theater."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) disagrees. "The only person who should be brought up on charges is Clark Johnson, for impersonating a film director in what amounts to essentially a mindless B-movie guns-'n'-ammo fest with an A-movie price tag."

Also displeased, Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) says, "For families, S.W.A.T. stands for Study What's At Theaters. If it's no better than this, stay home."