I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

S.W.A.T. Firefight

tn_swat2S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT is the straight to video sequel to the movie everybody kinda forgot about, based on the TV show that people only know of if they know the fucking awesome theme song. So before we get into this particular movie, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the one and only reason for the continued existence of the S.W.A.T. franchise of trademarked intellectual properties and likenesses and what not:

The theme was composed by Barry De Vorzon, who also scored some movies we enjoy such as HARD TIMES, ROLLING THUNDER and THE WARRIORS. Both of the S.W.A.T. movies re-use the theme, but in not-very-good modern interpretations.

FIREFIGHT probly doesn’t have any of the characters from the first movie, which probly doesn’t have any of the characters from the TV show, but nobody would remember anyway, so let’s not worry about the details. Directed by music video and NEXT DAY AIR director Benny Boom, the sequel stars first-time-ever-actor Gabriel Macht (that’s completely untrue, but I’d feel like an asshole pointing out that he played THE SPIRIT) as an L.A. S.W.A.T. team leader S.E.N.T. to D.E.T.R.O.I.T., MI, U.S.A. to train some of their guys for homeland security certification in hostage negotiation.

mp_swat2I came to this with an open mind, but I have to admit I almost didn’t watch it when I saw a Travers-esque quote from The Ain’t It Cool News on the cover. Nothing against my sometime internet home or even the particular guy who wrote the quote, but he’s somebody I had never heard of until I saw his name on the cover of THE BOONDOCK SAINTS 2. I know what you’re thinking: “Well, that doesn’t seem like a problem, as long as it was just his name and not some sort of a quote about the movie being good.” But it’s right there in all caps: “THE SEQUEL IMPROVES ON EVERYTHING THAT MADE THE FIRST FILM GREAT.” Because of that his endorsement of this movie set off a few alarms in my brain.

No problem. Turns out we’re not so far off on this particular part 2. Despite a dicey rich-kid-party opening reminiscent of a WILD THINGS sequel and an overuse of the video game style guy-shooting-a-gun POV shot, S.W.A.T.: F.F. is a reasonably entertaining DTV, well-paced, and with some good moments of camaraderie between cops. For the most part the team likes and supports each other, there’s not a bunch of forced bickering to make it “dramatic.” There’s one guy that clashes with the boss, but all the better for them to be professionals and have each other’s backs later. The guy he kicks off the team later comes through for him in a big way – I love that shit! That tickles my macho.

The bad guy is Robert Patrick, one of these blowback type of villains. He’s some kind of secret government killer and he blames this S.W.A.T. team for his woman’s death so he declares war on them. And conveniently he springs his trap inside the same building where they were gonna have their final test. So it’s a good opportunity to stop a madman and obtain some much needed certification.

I know this doesn’t sound like a compliment, but I stand by my feeling that Macht is like a more charismatic Casper Van Dien. I kind of liked him in this, playing his character Paul Cutler as a highly competent professional always spouting information and strategy and generally sounding to an idiot like me that he knows what he’s talking about.

I was also surprised how much I liked Shannon Kane (BROOKLYN’S FINEST, BLOOD AND BONE) as Barton, a war buddy that Cutler recruits to improve his team’s sharpshooting. It’s hard to buy a woman that beautiful as a grizzled veteran and badass cop, but she speaks with a confidence and intelligence that sells it. Hey man, it’s a DTV sequel. That’s what snipers look like in DTV.

Here’s an example of what’s appealing about this movie: when Cutler arrives in Detroit one of the first things he asks is how fast the S.W.A.T. team’s response time is. He seems to not believe their answer, so he goes out to a town square, calls in a bomb threat and sits there with his stop watch. I was thinking ha ha, he’s gonna catch them red-handed and embarrass them. But no, what I like is that they actually show up in the amount of time they claimed they would, and he compliments them on a job well done.

It’s not as good as it could be. The other guys on the team aren’t the greatest actors. There are some humorously awkward transitions, like the cut that seems to imply that he drives from L.A. to Detroit in one morning, and the scene where they illustrate a late night of partying by having one cop say, “… and you were a dancin’ machine last night!” I think maybe it’s supposed to be funny, but I’m not sure what I think about the girl who tells him “Some day you’re gonna meet somebody that you care about more than work. And when you do, embrace her, or she’s gonna figure out that you are emotionally unavailable.” That seems a little forced.

But it’s likable enough.

Here’s something kind of cool: the screenplay is credited to a TV writer (Reed Steiner) and three police technical advisers (Randy Walker, Michael Albanese and Ed Arneson). Two of them were advisers for the first S.W.A.T., all three played S.W.A.T. officers in TERMINATOR 2. So I guess they’d worked with Robert Patrick before. And guns.

I’m not really saying to run out and rent this, but if you’re curious I think it’s decent. If this is the new standard for mediocre DTV – and it’s starting to seem like it is – then things are definitely looking up.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 at 1:49 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “S.W.A.T. Firefight”

  1. Thought this was a pleasant surprise, especially considering how low-budget the cover looks. Outside the decent action, my fave scene is where Shannon Kane is instructing the snipers and getting them to shoot upside down.

  2. Vern! How DARE you kind of enjoy and somewhat recommend a sort of okay movie! What if I watched this expecting the kind of masterpiece you explicitly said it wasn’t? Why, I’d be disappointed, wouldn’t I? And it would be all. Your. Fault.

    How do you sleep at night, sir?

  3. I’ve never shot anything upside down.

    {updates bucket list}

    Wait, there’s a WILD THINGS FOURSOME?!?

    {updates movies-to-show-to-shy-girlfriend-when-she-might-be-in-the-mood-and-her-cute-artsy-galfriend-is-over-and-we’re-on-our-4th-bottle-and-no-one-wants-to-go-home-yet-so-maybe-they-can-kiss-and-see-if-they-like-it list}

  4. Never saw that T.V. show, but that’s some fine intro music and no mistake. I especially like the extra little jump that James Coleman does around the 1.06 mark. Modern television seems to have lost such wonderful freeze-frame action credits.

  5. I personally loved the gun POV shots, especially in the one part where a guy gets shot and then, while he’s laying on the ground, they switch back to his gun’s point of view, also laying on the ground.

    It’s like, “Okay, that’s good, but what does his gun think of this?”

  6. Alice Braga did allow hot snipers to make the jump from DTV and attain equality in wide release films with PREDATORS. One day people will recognize this as a pioneering role for model-hot lady actors who shoot things.

  7. Thanks for the review. I have SWAT:FF on my stack waiting for the okay from Vern. Although Born to Raise Hell just went to the top of the stack for obvious reasons.

    I think SWAT is a fine generic franchise for standalone sequels but is there any good action in this?

  8. FTopel – the action is pretty solid except there are a couple of times when they switch to the POV of the guys’ weapons, which didn’t work for me except it did emphasise just how far away their targets were.

  9. Eddie, maybe this will inspire a badass version of THE RED VIOLIN where the movie follows one gun through a series of owners, each section ending with the gun’s POV of the previous owner bleeding to death.

  10. Actually, there is already a Hong Kong movie called RUNAWAY PISTOL that follows a gun through a series of owners. I can’t remember if it has any sweet gun POV shots though.

  11. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    March 31st, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I shot my wad on a chick from being upside down. Kind of.

  12. Majestyk – hardy har har harr.

    Actually I might check this one out after I’ve had a chance to watch the original “SWAT”. Sounds ok.

    I have worked out one thing that separates me from Vern though. Vern can laugh at cheesy dialogue much more than I can. Which I guess is why “Expendables” annoyed the fuck out of me more than it did Vern.

  13. so The Spirit guy wound up in DTV eh? ouch?

  14. Poor Gabriel Macht. I actually kinda liked The Spirit once it became apparent it was going to be more Batman & Robin than Sin City. And even if you didn’t like it, Macht’s performance was perfectly fine for the campy movie it was.

    Speaking of, I just saw A Love Song for Bobby Long on TV – it looked like typical Oscar Bait, but it was actually funny, heartwarming stuff. Macht is great (he eerily looks just like Heath Ledger), Travolta is actually good for once and it has Scarlett Johannson’s best performance (and best sideboob too).

  15. Dangit, Jam beat me to it. I was going to say something like, “Man, whoever James Coleman is, he’s jumping the HELL off that roof!”

    It’s his expression and the way he flings his rifle over his head.

  16. Also, is the actual opening credit shot for the series (where they run to jump into the truck which takes off with the S.W.A.T title zooming up) supposed to be through a sniper scope or something?? The corners are weirdly rounded off with black curves. (But not evenly, it’s most pronounced at the top-left.)

    I realize it was probably just poorly shot by the lensman, but dang. I don’t recall ever seeing that before in a prime time TV show, even from the early 80s.

    Also, I should mention that I never watched a single episode of this show, but I by God tuned in every week as a kid to watch the opening credits. I was convinced that the little scanner was supposed to be some kind of science-fiction alarm thing (thanks to the synthesizer sound effect that plays when the camera starts by being focused in there.)

  17. Also, I meant to ask: is the new DTV version of the theme song better than the awful rap attempt from the theatrical movie?

  18. Thanks, Mike. Sounds like it’s worth a look and I’ll just ignore the Avid fartism of it.

  19. So you made me really want to know which Ain’t It Cool person it was who made those quotes, so I looked up the cover to see who it was since the picture you have up was too small for me to see. Apparently I’m not the only one since “Swat Firefight DVD cover” is the third most searched for phrase under “Swat Firefight”.
    Anyway, turns out it’s some dude i never heard of named Ryan McLelland. I searched his name on Ain’t it Cool, but it only came up with one result, a report from the set of Watchmen. Hey Vern, you thought the pre-release geek talk about Tron Legacy was a nerd frenzy? You should check this shit out! Its a fun read, he talks about how making Watchmen into a film is equally hard as adapting Catcher in the Rye into a movie as well as comparing the set of the Antarctic base to the Pyramids.
    So the important thing here is, this Watchmen promo thing he wrote is the only piece of his writing on Ain’t it Cool. How are they even able to refer to him as from Ain’t it Cool News when his SWAT review was never posted on it and he is not on staff?
    Now intrigued by this mysterious studio whore, I went to his website, eyewannabe.com. I searched for SWAT Firefight, but that only pulled up a post about how he had a quote on the DVD cover – there is no actual review! He did write quite a bit about the Boondock Saints 2 movie though. This dude like, really likes Boondock Saints 2. They actually should have used this quote for the cover: “The fact that this film then looks amazing, sounds even better, with impeccable acting, and a phenomenal story is sort of like bringing a Playboy model as your date to the prom then getting laid afterwards with her and her twin sister.”
    So yeah. I guess he’s the go-to for geeky overenthusiastic movie quotes when Harry’s writing is too indecipherable. You should really hop on board the sexual metaphor boat Vern, it could really get you places.

  20. Enjoyed this one alright. Gabe Macht isn’t much of a line-reader, but he does “monotonous professionalism in a militaristic work environment” well. I enjoyed him representing the slender class of Americans in the face of our bulkier, muscularer coworkers by dominating the punch-power arcade game.

    I giggled a couple of times when the script had him say something intense and meaningful, but he had to end the line by exclaiming the name of Robert Patrick’s bad guy. “Don’t you hurt her, Walter!” Or something like that. Everything’s funny when you address it to “Walter.”

    The jargon and depictions of weaponry & accessories all passed my inaccuracyometer. And I have to bow to the conventions of action dtv instead of nitpicking about how easily, without paperwork/warrant/permission from chief, the cops remove automatics & bookoo ammo from the arms locker at their SWAT lounge.

    Also the main character was a destructive force who never should have been in charge of a Detroit team during live missions. His order to not place the team’s best sniper in the sniper position was wrong wrong wrong. What a cocky dumbfuck. But, you know, without these stupid decisions we wouldn’t have most of the movie.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a prequel that explores the secret agent exploits of Walter Hatch. He’s like Jason Bourne, except his brain affliction is violent obsession instead of amnesia.

    Oh by the way, Kristanna Loken is in this, too. A lot of TERMINATOR talent here.

  21. Finally saw this before it leaves Netflix Instant – it’s pretty good, I probably enjoyed it more than the original. It’s not Unisol Regen or Undisputed II good, but still solid and enjoyable DTV. Macht has great screen presence and authority despite his pretty boy looks and decided non-ruggedness, the team is likable (I actually got sad when they started getting picked off) and I liked that this addressed two minor nitpicks I had with the forgettable original: (SPOILERS)

    1) I’m glad the cop kicked off the team stayed a good guy and didn’t go rogue, unlike Jeremy Renner in part 1. Also I’m glad there was no turncoat like Josh Charles in Part 1 too (“Oh my God that cop likes sushi so he’s going to turn out to be greedy!”)

    2) In SWAT 1, Farrell and Jackson don’t accept a guy on the team because he’s a vegetarian, which I’m sure was just a dude-bros/mancave-y afterthought joke but seemed kind of a Ted Nugent-y/”vegetarians and people who care about the environment are GAY” statement to me. (Again, the movie’s so forgettable that it’s a little sad this is one of the only things I remember about it) I’m not even a vegetarian but I know several vegetarians and vegans who could kick the shit out of me; I think having the character play with their expectations could have been more clever, but whatever. Anyways, Macht plays a vegan in this one (he’s at least vegetarian in real life), but now I think about it, what was he cooking the psychiatrist for breakfast? Maybe it was Gimme Lean soyrizo. Either way, it’s nice to see a vegan action hero.

    The villain and his SAW-like plans seem like they belong in a different movie, and I kinda wish there was more than 2 bad guys (I was really hoping the end was going to be Macht’s rookie SWAT team vs. Patrick’s black ops team), but oh well, anytime a DTV sequel can surpass the original it’s worth a look.

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