5-Word 365 #205 – S.W.A.T.: Firefight

Is all that punctuation strictly necessary?

S.W.A.T.: Firefight

It’s alright. I’ve seen worse.

Paul Cutler, the star sergeant of LA’s S.W.A.T. division, is despatched to Detroit to retrain the locals in new FBI hostage rescue techniques. During a call-out, a hostage shoots herself in the head and her stalker ex-boyfriend blames Cutler. Unfortunately the stalker ex-boyfriend is also a mentally unbalanced former government assassin. You totally saw that coming, didn’t you?

This direct-to-video release from 2011 is allegedly a sequel to 2003’s Colin Farrell/Samuel L Jackson romantic comedy, which was in turn an update of the mid-seventies TV series. Aside from the fact that each features a S.W.A.T. team, there are no tangible connections; no shared characters, for example. I’d call it more a spin-off than a sequel. This version stars Gabriel Macht (The Spirit) as Cutler and Robert Patrick as Walter Hatch, the aforementioned mentally unbalanced former government assassin. There are actually two Terminators in this flick, come to think of it, since Kristanna Loken also pops up for a glorified bit part.

l to r: The bald one, the black one, the nerdy one, the one who’s always eating, the chick and the leader. I guess that’s what passes for character development nowadays.

As unsure as I was about The Spirit, Gabriel Macht was an interesting choice for the lead. He came across best in the scenes where he was by himself, either monologuing or in voice-over, but the script kept letting him down when someone else showed up. I haven’t seen any of his new TV series Suits, but on the strength of this I might give it a go. In a cast of mostly unknowns he is the strongest presence, and no matter how wacky the movie gets, he never seems out of his depth. Robert Patrick seems to be enjoying his diet of scenery with a side helping of ham as Walter. He is clearly having a blast in what could have been just another stock psycho role. The main problem with the cast is that, aside from the two leads, none of them is given anything to differentiate one from another. The rest of the S.W.A.T. squad are entirely interchangeable.

This is director Benny Boom’s (somehow I don’t think that’s what his mother calls him) second feature after a long career directing music videos. His first flick was the stoner comedy Next Day Air, with Donald Faison and Mos Def. Visually, it seems like he is still caught up in the music video aesthetic; lots of quick cuts and some pretty extravagant camera moves for a relatively low budget DTV flick. The most irritating part for me was his frequent use of Doom-cam – duct-taping the camera to shoot along the barrel of an assault rifle like in one of those crazy computer games all the kidz are playing these days. Shaky-cam is bad enough, but this wasn’t a good idea in any way. Aside from his tendency to show off a little too often though, Boom has a pretty good sense of pacing and keeps the story moving at a fair clip.

Cigar, leather jacket… Yep, he’s definitely the bad guy. (Look! More character development!)

Unfortunately the script doesn’t quite match up. Reed Steiner (a writer/producer for TV shows like NCIS and The Shield) is the sole screenwriter, but he shares a story credit with three fellas called Randy Walker, Michael Albanese and Ed Arneson – apparently all three are former LAPD S.W.A.T. officers. This is a double-edged sword to be truthful. The film is probably one of the most technically accurate ones ever for the practicalities of S.W.A.T. – things like training and techniques, for example – but the plot has an air of wish-fulfilment about it, as if one of the cops sat down and decided it would be cool if they were being targetted by an obsessive stalker with a big bag o’ guns, without giving any real thought to the “why” part of the story. The motivations for just about everything are sketchy at best. And that’s the biggest problem here: when it comes right down to it, nothing really makes that much sense.

It’s hard to enjoy a film, even one as unselfconsciously cheesy as this, when you are constantly wondering why these things are happening. I have discovered a mostly foolproof solution to that problem however, and I am willing to share it with you. It is this: just have another beer.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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