Blu-ray Disc REVIEW
Release Date: September 19, 2006
Film Rating: /
Starring: Colin Farrell (Jim Street), Michelle Rodriguez (Chris Sanchez), Samuel L. Jackson (Sgt. Dan ‘Hondo’ Harrelson)
Written by: Ron Mita
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Even cops dial 911
In December 2003, I wrote the review for S.W.A.T. when it first came to DVD. I didn’t think the movie was that great; in fact I was disappointed. I feel the same way about the film’s messy focus but viewing it in HD can give a different level of enjoyment. I enjoyed watching the film’s excellent image and was marvelled at the film’s soundtrack, now delivered in uncompressed PCM 5.1. Even though movie wasn’t any better, the experience was better. I guess I can say I enjoyed the movie a little more this second time around. It’s interesting to note how the high definition experience makes one think this way for even the worst movies. It’s worth taking a second look in high def.
Instead of writing a new review for the film, I’ve included my 2003 review of the film below with a few minor edits.
S.W.A.T. was the summer 2003 hit film starring Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson and 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. Executives pulled the plug on the show because it was viewed to be too violent for the masses on daytime television. The show was based on five S.W.A.T. guys out to kick some butt. 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 especially if it’s an action flick. Since people are familiar with the title, all that was needed was a basic storyline, a couple of well known actors mixed up with crafty camera work, editing and voila! a summer blockbuster. Was it 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. 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 film needs this for story development 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 its rather anti-climatic ending. But knowing this is a popcorn action flick, who cares about development and enjoy the movie!
VIDEO QUALITY 9.5/10
I’ve decided to rank the video quality of these discs on a 1-10 scale. A Blu-Ray score of 5 will mean that it is similar to the best-looking DVD I can think of and the remaining 5-10 will be based on the extended resolution of Blu-Ray disc. I think this is the best way to rank these titles for now so I hope this will help you to determine what a reference HD disc is. As more BDs become available and authoring improves (as was in the early DVD days) the earliest titles I’ve ranked as “10” may not appear as “reference quality” anymore. Please note that I’m currently viewing this on a 1280x720 projector and I’m not even able to see half of the 1920x1080 information on this disc. In the simplest terms, instead of seeing 6x the resolution of DVD I’m only seeing 2.6x the improvement. Our display devices have a long way to go before we can see all of the picture information contained on these discs. This disc was reviewed on the Samsung BD-P1000 on a 35-foot Monster M1000HDMI to a calibrated PT-AE700 (6500K/5400K-B&W). The screen is a D110" (8-foot wide) Da-Lite Cinema Contour (w.Pro-Trim finish) and Da-Mat fabric.
I gave a positive review of the DVD picture quality, but the Blu-ray disc far surpasses DVD in every way. Contrast has improved in the sense that the picture looks brighter without sacrificing the integrity of deep black and bright whites. If anything, they are clearer and more defined and appears closer to the HD reality. Colours look excellent and look completely neutral. Skin tones look real on all people, and all colours seem to have the perfect amount of saturation to the point of just not being artificially altered. There is the occasional cool cast over the image for artistic purposes and this Blu-ray disc is successful a delivering the image to our theatres.
Edge enhancement, compression artefacts, film grain, and video noise are completely absent on this release. I think this is one of the best looking title Sony Pictures has given us to date. I am impressed and it further proves to me that Blu-ray is capable of delivering.
The aspect ratio is 2.40:1.
PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 9/10
DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 8/10
For the sake of consistency with the video, I’m going to rate uncompressed PCM (and eventually the lossless audio compression formats when available), as well as lossy Dolby Digital and DTS on a scale from 1-10. This rating is based on “satisfaction” – the highest score delivering the greatest amount of satisfaction and the lowest delivering the least. When defining satisfaction, I mean both the resolution of the audio as well as the sound design for the film. I’m listening for the best experience possible. Audio is reviewed using the Samsung BD-P1000’s decoding & DACs, a Marantz SR5400 for preamp/pass-through, 2 Anthem MCA-30 amps each on Transparent PowerLink Super, Dunlavy SC-IV (front), Dunlavy SC-I (center), Focus Audio FC-50 (surrounds), Mirage BPS-400 subwoofer (LFE), 4 Paradigm PW-2200 subwoofers on 2 Mirage LFX-3 crossovers (one sub for each main channel for audio <50Hz), Transparent MusicWave Plus BiWire speaker cable (all channels), Transparent MusicLink Plus and AudioQuest Diamondback interconnects (all channels)
The soundtrack appears improved on this Blu-ray disc over the DVD. I mentioned that the DVD’s surround channels’ level appeared slightly lower than the front channels. This is *not* the case on this BD. All channels are actively engaging during the action sequences. The sound field is deep and wide and create sound images beyond the speakers to the sides of the room. Bass impact is excellent in all channels. The opening bank robbery battle scene is still an intense audio fight. All sounds have excellent fidelity and gun shots ring with the ambience of the environment they are shot in and are bass-loaded. The soundtrack can also be front heavy and underutilizes the back speakers.
The dialogue is integrated just perfectly. It’s not in your face or pulled out too far ahead of the main speakers. It blends in nicely with the rest of the sound effects.
The music, as I’ve experienced with every other uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack to date, is much more expansive, deep, and dynamic. The PCM soundtrack option seems to balance the reproduction of music and effects more equally. There is no comparison here: if you want to experience the best sound for this film the PCM soundtrack is the only option. The lossy Dolby Digital option, in direct comparison sounds sucked into the middle of the listening space. Using some dialogue and music as a reference, it also seems to be about two decibels lower but I didn’t go into great detail to check for sure.
(Note: you must have the 6-channel output of your Blu-Ray player connected to an EXT-IN on your receiver/preamp to take advantage of uncompressed PCM or with the use of HDMI and supporting devices).
TACTILE FUN!! /
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
Tactile ratings are based on the information in the dedicated LFE channel only. Bass from any other channel has not been rerouted to the LFE. For “shaking” purposes, I’m interested only in the bass the LFE provides to enhance the bass in all other channels. It also gives me a good indication of how much of that “.1 LFE” channel is used on each film. A Clark Synthesis TST-429 is used on an AudioSource AMP5.3, an AudioQuest Diamondback interconnect and Crankin’ Cable 12-awg speaker wire.
Most of the bass in this film is directional and placed accurately in the left and right front and surround channels. Occasionally, the deepest amount of bass is highlighted with a bit of LFE support. It’s not overused, which is nice, so that added audible impact is furthered with some sofa shaking with a tactile device. It made the movie more enjoyable so I recommend using a tactile device for this film.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
Only one feature has been carried over to this BD from the DVD. There are 8 deleted scenes that are non-anamorphic widescreen. Some are unfinished and most are scene extensions totalling about 6.5 minutes.
IN THE END...
S.W.A.T. may not be the greatest movie to hit the shelves. It’s a cool action flick with an awesome soundtrack and an HD image we’ve all been waiting to see on Blu-ray. With a great looking source (as this clearly is) Blu-ray looks and sounds…awesome.
September 8, 2006.