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SWAT (article first published : 2003-12-8)

Inspired by the 70s American television series of the same title which refers to the special, crack US police unit known as Special Weapons and Tactics - this new Swatis a nice surprise, a compelling and imaginative summer action romp that truly delivers.

Directed with lighting-paced editing by Clark Johnson, perhaps better known for playing Detective Meldrick Lewis on the series Homicide: Life on the Streets, the film is further embellished with a good cast headed by Samuel L Jackson.

He's cast as tough Sgt Hondo Harrelson, who sets about bringing together the finest team of Swat recruits that he can. Among them is the ever-watchable Colin Farrell, as a fiery fallen hero, Jim Street, and rapper LL Cool J, with a six-pack of note and now credited under his real name of James Todd Smith, as the cool and no-nonsense Deacon Kaye.

Also recruited are tough mum Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez of Girlfight fame), gung-ho Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt), who is the cocky brother of Jims former girlfriend; and pretty boy smoothie T J McCabe (Josh Charles).

After a good half of the movie is spent entertainingly showing the recruits bonding and going through their special training, the plot shifts up a gear with hunky Oliver Martinez - new beau of Kylie Mongue- appearing on the scene as Alex Montel, a French druglord with international clout.

He comes to settle a score with an uncle and, in a routine traffic flag-down, finds himself thrown into prison. Before he is whisked behnd bars, however, he shouts to an eager media contingent that he will gladly give $100 million to anyone who frees him.

All of which adds up to more than a fair share of headaches for Det Lewis and his team, which is assigned to escort the handsome baddie to a maximum security prison.

With every thug in town wanting a stab at the drug kingpin's reward money, there are plenty of hurdles and fireworks thrown into the path of the Swat team, which finds itself facing danger in a train tunnel, in a sewerage system and also in a memorable finale involving a bridge and a jet.

If you're after thrills and spills with a little twist involving betrayal and heroism, this film should do very nicely. It offers nothing really new and certainly plays with all the cliches, but it does so with verve and style. Rating: 8/10 Billy Suter




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