In 2003, the action film "S.W.A.T." was released in theaters and made over $203 million in the worldwide box office.
There was no doubt that there would be a sequel to the film, but this time around, the film receives a direct-to-video release and is directed by hip hop music video director Benny Boom and features a screenplay by Reed Steiner ("The Shield", "NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service", "The District"). And for this film, the goal was to make an action film that was character driven.
"S.W.A.T. Firefight" revolves around LAPD S.W.A.T. leader Paul Cutler (played by Gabriel Macht, "Whiteout", "The Spirit", "The Recruit") who is a one of the best S.W.A.T. and anti-terrorist officers out there and he has been given a chance at a promotion but he first must go to Detroit and train members of the Detroit S.W.A.T. Alpha Team for two weeks and so they can get their certification.
He must train the overly confident Justin Kellogg (played by Nicholas Gonzalez), Danny Stockton (played by Matt Bushell, "Leatherheads, "Twilight"), Wayne Wolport (played by Gino Anthony Pesi), Kyle Watters (played by Kevin Phillips, "Notorious", "Pride") and Richard Mundy (played by Micah A. Hauptman, "Iron Man", "Supernatural").
Of course, the Detroit guys are not so happy with the new guy on their turf but because he's the only guy with the experience to get the S.W.A.T. team ready and certified, Inspector Hollander (played by Giancarlo Esposito) and the team must give the veteran, Paul Cutler a chance!
One day, while the group was training, they receive a distress call and the S.W.A.T. team under Cutler try to save a woman who was held hostage by Walter Hatch (played by Robert Patrick, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", "The X-Files", "Walk the Line"). While the team secured the building, Cutler and Kellogg manage to stop Hatch and rescuing the hostage Rose Walker (played by Kristianna Loken, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", "BloodRayne"). When Cutler issues Kellogg to secure the hostage, he doesn't and Rose ends up stealing the gun from Kellogg and wants the S.W.A.T. team to kill Walter Hatch. They refuse and Rose ends up killing herself in the process. Upset at what took place, Walter threatens Cutler that he will get revenge on him for killing Rose.
The death of Rose is Cutler's first lost hostage and upset that Kellogg did not follow orders, the two take part in a competition. Whoever scores the lowest point on a punching video game will either pack up and go back home (Cutler) or will lose his spot on the S.W.A.T. A-Team. Kellogg ends up losing and he loses his spot in the team and is replaced by a military friend of Cutler,Lori Barton (played by Shannon Kane, "Madea's Big Happy Family", "Brooklyn's Finest") who worked alongside Cutler in Iraq and will assist in showing the men of how to be a better sniper.
While Cutler prepares to continue and train the team for certification, he receives a threatening call from Walter Hatch, and that he is coming after him.
Cutler learns from the Detroid PD's psychiatrist Kim Byers (played by Carly Pope) that Walter was released because he was the hostage and Rose was the person who had the gun and also was depressed and suicidal and killed herself. But Cutler is not buying it. He feels that there is something off about Walter Hatch. Meanwhile, Hatch breaks into one of the S.W.A.T. team member's car and steals their Detroit PD certification booklet and begins his plan in playing mind games with Cutler.
When Cutler gets home, he finds a gift from Walter (a funeral rose platform for Cutler) and immediately, he starts to look into Walter's residence. When Cutler breaks in, he finds out it's the wrong house owned by someone else but all this time, Walter has been watching him and threatening him. Knowing that Hatch wants him dead, as Cutler checks his car for explosives, he finds a bomb.
Cutler realizes that this lunatic, Walter Hatch has one goal and that is to kill him and anyone that is connected to him.
"S.W.A.T. Firefight" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). By no means should anyone think that because this film is direct-to-video that it's not going to look good. In fact, for the production or this film, they filmmakers were able to use new Sony Digital Cameras (more about this is explained in the special feature) that really enhance the detail of the film. From the grittiness of Detroit, the detail of the weapons used by the S.W.A.T. team, there is also vibrancy to the colors during the daytime outdoor sequences. Blacks are nice and deep and I didn't find any artifacting, edge enhancement, banding or any problems with the picture quality.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"S.W.A.T. Firefight" is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA. And similar to what I had to say about the PQ, this direct-to-video film also takes advantage of the audio during the action sequences. From the various weapons used, artillery and bullets being shot, the surround channels are well-utilized during these sequences. So, there is a lot of gunplay in this film and I was impressed. Typically in direct-to-video films, not too much surround is utilized but for this film, I'm glad there was! Also, good use of LFE and if anything, the center and front channels are well-utilized and sound very good and you get awesome immersive lossless audio at times.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, Spanish and French.
"S.W.A.T. Firefight" comes with a special feature presented in High Definition:
* "Sharp Shooting: On the Set" - A featurette with director Benny Boom and behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of "S.W.A.T. Firefight" and the training the talent had to do to make sure this film looked authentic. Also, Boom talks about shooting the film in Detroit and meeting with the Detroit S.W.A.T. team.
Intense action! "S.W.A.T. Firefight" may be a direct-to-video sequel but by no means does it mean this film is bad because it's actually pretty good.
I have to admit that I came upon this film expecting a kitschy popcorn action flick. But I was pretty surprised by how well-written and how the action went for this film. If anything, I have to credit Benny Boom for wanting to capture the accuracy of what happens with the S.W.A.T. team and even consulting with them to make sure he doesn't disrespect them and what they do in protecting the lives of many people.
Also, it helped that they did use a real S.W.A.T. team member to train the talent and doing all they can to keeping things authentic (even using real S.W.A.T. team members during the opening sequence).
Gabriel Macht, who plays the lead protagonist Paul Cutler does a fantastic job. And while this sequel is more character driven and revolves around his character, it's good to see the film play up the camaraderie of the Alpha Team and the viewer feels some connection which is important especially when you have Robert Patrick doing an awesome job of playing the lunatic villain.
I have to admit that "S.W.A.T. Firefight" is pretty awesome in how it showcases the weaponry, the outfits, the training regimen and I wouldn't be surprised if the film becomes a heavy influence in one's decision of joining the S.W.A.T. team in reality. The film does paint a great picture of the men and women who are part of the S.W.A.T. team and Benny Boom's dedication to capturing the authenticity paid off.
Because the film uses a lot of talent who are not so well-kn0wn, in many ways, I think it works very well for "S.W.A.T. Firefight". Whereas the last film, you pretty much know when you see this character or that character, who is going to be the badass and you have high expectations because of how they were utilized in previous action films. In this case, the cast had good chemistry and for the part, everything worked.
If I had one problem with the film, there were two scenes. One during the opening sequence of a hostage standoff and how the people from the party responded to the rescue. It was like an audience from a golf match and seemed fake. If people were being rescued after being held hostage, I expect tears, crying and hugs, not everyone doing an applause as if they were watching a golf match.
And with the banality of action teams, the shot of the group after they finished training and the shot of the whole team walking towards the camera. An example of how the wrong music can make a potential cool scene not work.
And possibly the scene which didn't bother me as much considering, that it would probably cost too much money to have someone in the visual effects dept. do, so I'm not going to hold it on the filmmakers for not trying, was a scene of the actual blowing up of a building which happens near the end of the film and how it looks unscathed at the end.
But overall, "S.W.A.T. Firefight" was a pretty enjoyable popcorn action flick. Director Benny Boom and writer Reed Steiner did a pretty awesome job in capturing the authenticity of the S.W.A.T. team and crafting a new S.W.A.T. film not related to the first. But I felt the casting was also pretty good for this film as Robert Patrick can definitely play the villain. In many ways, I do feel that Sony has the potential of creating more of these direct-to-video films and personally, it would be great to see Gabriel Macht and his character Paul Cutler return for another film. There is a lot of potential in more S.W.A.T.-related films and if they can keep up with the authenticity, the action and a solid storyline, this can be a solid action franchise for years to come.
If you are looking for an enjoyable popcorn action flick or if you are person who is considering being part of the S.W.A.T. team, "S.W.A.T. Firefight" is a film worth watching!