Special Delivery 

All tactics and no tact, “S.W.A.T.” doesn’t pack much of a punch.

“S W.A.T.,” while hardly realistic, does have a bit of grit, and there is the sense these police officers are in real danger. One thing that helps is the premise, which concerns the real Special Weapons and Tactics unit initiated in the late 1960s and formalized in 1972 by the Los Angeles Police Department. During and after the Watts riots in the late 1960s, it was acknowledged that police were not prepared to handle such situations. The S.W.A.T. teams were established with specialized officers, many with prior military experience.

Unfortunately, the film bears little resemblance to the operation of real- life S.W.A.T. teams, or for that matter even to the short-lived 1970s TV series of the same name. What it does have is the highly popular theme music, composed by Barry DeVorzon, and the fact that some of the characters reportedly retain the same names as in the TV show.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Sgt. Dan “Hondo” Harrelson, and the second lead goes to the much-publicized Irish bad-boy Colin Farrell, who has so far stolen scenes from Bruce Willis (“Hart’s War”), Tom Cruise (“Minority Report”), Ben Affleck (“Daredevil”) and, finally, from none other than Al Pacino in his own box-office hit “The Recruit.”

Regrettably, neither Jackson nor Farell has much to do in terms of acting in “S.W.A.T.” Jackson plays a veteran who returns to form a new team despite the objections of a snooty, young bureaucratic captain (Larry Poindexter). Farrell, who plays a disgraced S.W.A.T. member on the verge of redemption, swaggers and rushes about with great energy, getting the most he can out of the meager role. Stardom is his for the taking, and he’ll likely be around for a long time. The fact that the character is a Navy SEAL was enough to get some cheers from the audience.

LL Cool J’s fans will probably be disappointed that he has little to do except show up for the ensemble action scenes. He is now billed as James Todd Smith, and this role is a disappointment. He does, however, lift his shirt to reveal his famous abs in one scene — an instance that got squeals from the audience. Michelle Rodriguez plays the first Los Angeles female S.W.A.T. team member. In a Hollywood obsessed with carbon-copy beauties, she has had her work cut out for her in etching out a movie career. “Girlfight” and “Blue Crush” established her biceps, but she’s not exactly the type to get Julia Roberts roles. If Angelina Jolie ever bows out of the Lara Croft franchise, Rodriguez would be a natural.

“S.W.A.T.” also promised two commendable writers: David Ayer, the co-writer, took a darker look at cops with the overrated “Training Day” and the underrated “Dark Blue.” His co-writer, David McKenna, is working on a controversial script about a man who challenges the Constitution and runs for president. In spite of the promise, all they could come up with for “S.W.A.T.” was a French drug dealer who offers $100 million to anyone who can spring him from an L.A. jail.

With the U.S. government offering millions in exchange for international criminals, the plot may not be as silly as it would have been a few years ago. In any case, it’s enough to spark a nifty, exciting finale escape attempt, and to its credit, “S.W.A.T.” does evoke feelings of danger and involvement during several of its action scenes.

The movie hardly qualifies as a true-to-life account, but it at least manages to make us feel that its characters may be in peril. That, in the mess of current action films, is something. **1/2 S


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