Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Canadian Rating: 14A
Film Length: 117 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen enhanced
Audio: English & French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English & French
Release Date: December 30, 2003
Well, the end of 2003 is wrapping up and it’s been a great year for DVD releases and for films in the theatre. While not all of them have reached a level of praise that will make them be remembered and go down into film history books, some of those did make an impact at the box office. Take S.W.A.T. released by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment – it was the hit summer 2003 film starring Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson that grossed over $116 million. The film is based on a popular TV series from the ‘70s that ran a season and a half, or to be more exact, 39 episodes. The executives above pulled the plug on the show because it was viewed to be too violent for the masses for daily TV. The show was based on five S.W.A.T. guys going out to kick some butt, and in retrospect the guns and the violence in this show was really tame and is perceived as comical by today’s standards.
Of course, all TVs shows can find their way to the big screen somehow especially if an action flick. There is already a familiarity with the title by some, throw in a couple of well known actors, mix it up with crafty camera work and editing and voila! a summer blockbuster. Can it be good? $119 million of consumer dollars says it is.
The opening sequence of the film captures the viewer to experience a re-enactment of a real event that took place in North Hollywood – a bank shoot-out. Looking at original tapes the producers recreated this as accurately as possible by using both film and news-video shot from the sky to set the mood of our special weapons and tactics team entering the bank. We learn that S.W.A.T. team members are people who one day will be sitting back enjoying a nice coffee and donut and in the next moment will have to make split second decisions against those who pose a threat and terror against hostages and property. These guys are under high-stress conditions and the opening sequence tries to communicate this to us somewhat successfully. I actually felt like I was watching Top Gun because of the events just all seemed to fall in the same sequence – partners working together, one disobeys, the get called into the office, one quits. The rest of film needs this for story development right to the ending.
The middle of the film is really just Jackson’s character putting some new S.W.A.T. recruits to work in training including the talents of Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Josh Charles. Jeremy Renner plays the outcast S.W.A.T. member and Oliver Martinez as the captured foreign guy offering $100 million to anyone who can help him escape from the authorities.
The movie’s direction isn’t well focused as I found myself watching unlikely events. I felt that some parts were rather pointless, and characters of the S.W.A.T. recruits weren’t developed at all to help me understand them and their decisions. A lack of character development leaves me not knowing them and thinking, “Who cares?” when things come into full circle to it’s rather anti-climatic ending. But knowing this is a popcorn action flick who cares about development and enjoy the movie!
Video Quality? /
This stylized 2.40:1 widescreen enhanced picture features a wide use of both film and a video appearance to set the mood of the scenes. The video looks just like news footage and is smeared and undefined to give it a claustrophobic experience using amateur camera operators. When switched to film the picture is sharp but rather dim. I recommend a dark viewing environment for this movie because any ambient light will make the details difficult to see in the nighttime scenes especially at the end of the film. Cool blues and swampy greens are some of the few mood colours used throughout. Colour rendered good with accurate looking flesh tones. While not a reference looking picture it is sure to please.
A separate 4:3 release is available and is not reviewed.
Audio Quality? /
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the front soundstage is wide and dynamic and has some great imaging. Frequencies seem well balanced with either sound effects of music. The music score, emanating from the theme of the television show, is very prominent during the action scenes that sound effects seem to take the backseat to the music. I felt that I was taken out of those scenes’ action because all the sound effects of gunfire were rather quiet sounding in comparison to the music score. So if you want to wow your friend with the sounds of shoot-out scenes, I wouldn’t recommend this title for it. Regardless, the audio is very clear, and when gunshots are fired there is a great kick in the bass each time the trigger is pushed. It is very directional and it will give your sub(s) and all channels a good bass workout. It is nice to hear punctuating bass in the surround channels to enhance the listener in all kinds of sounds. Surround use is used but sparingly. There are times of directional effects but for the most part they don’t seem to draw too much attention to themselves. They also sound a few dB lower than the main channels when all of them are engaged at the same time.
Special Features? /
This special edition DVD’s features include two commentaries, one from the cast and director (featuring Van Holt, LL Cool J, Rodriguez, Jackson, Charles, and Director Clark Johnson) and the other from the technical consultant and screenwriters. Johnson isn’t the most exciting person to listen to but nevertheless when the rest start chatting about the film it can make it more enjoyable.
There are four featurettes on this disc. First is Anatomy of a Shootout (9m08s) and discusses the weapons used in the film as well as the opening sequence based on that live event. S.W.A.T. – T.V.’s Original Supercops (6.58) reflects on the past television series that the film is based on. The Making of S.W.A.T. (21m40s) reflects a little more into the making of the film and S.W.A.T. team members. Interviews with actors and S.W.A.T. members are the highlight, but I found this featurette to be pretty snoozy… Lastly, the 6th Street Bridge – Achieving the Impossible (5m22s) discusses the use of CGI for this sequence because yes – this scene would probably be impossible to do in reality (not to mention when the plane tries to take off). All of these featurettes are enhanced for widescreen TVs and in DD2.0, except for The Making of S.W.A.T., which is 4:3.
Next up is eight deleted scenes, all are widescreen and not enhanced, DD2.0, and some are unfinished with blue screen in the background. They total about six and a half minutes and are mostly small scene extensions cut for length.
A neat little interactive piece called Sound & Fury: The Sounds of S.W.A.T. goes into a little more detail into the sound design for certain gun fights and how the sound designers go out to make the perfect gun sound using various mikes. You can click your remote over different guns showed on screen to hear what they sound like in a weapon demo. Also, with the use of the “audio” button on your remote, you can toggle between different sound layers for gunshot effects for four different scenes in the film. Neat! I think more interactive features should be on DVDs because they are more fun and add a break when just watching featurettes for five hours.
Lastly, a gag reel, filmographies, and theatrical trailers are included. Oddly enough, the theatrical trailer for S.W.A.T. is not on this disc.
Bring S.W.A.T. home for the New Year if you want to start it off with a bang! While the movie isn’t the greatest thing I’ve seen, others will find it exciting and full of action. With the talents of the cast and the positive press, most people will find this movie a “to-get-to flick”. This film will give you a little insight to a day in the life of a S.W.A.T. member and maybe make you appreciate your job a little more if you are not one to sit on the line of danger. Go get ‘em boys.