When God was handing out girlfriends, I had the luck not only of getting a smart and beautiful one, but also one who would happily and willingly go to movies like S.W.A.T.. And even enjoy it. And analyze it afterwards on the way home. I’m lucky.

Because Catherine grew up on a farm in rural Eastern Ontario, and because her family didn’t pick up U.S. television stations, not only had she never seen the mid-1970s S.W.A.T. television series, but she had no idea of the meaning of the term. Like my grandmother, who when we took her to see the movie Hackers was relieved, when it was over, to find that it wasn’t a horror movie where people got chopped into bits, Catherine thought that “swat” was about a giant fly. Or a giant flyswatter.

We figured, in the end, even if the movie stunk, she would come away having learned something.

This movie season has seen a lot of mediocre action movies. The Italian Job was perhaps the most hyped and the most disappointing. I’m happy to report that, while not a great work of art, S.W.A.T. is a cut above the rest, and is an enjoyable night out at the movies if what you’re looking for is diversion, not uplift.

If you are familiar at all with the television series S.W.A.T., you can pretty well imagine most of the setups in the movie. That said, the plot has some interesting, if less-than-subtle twists, and the central premise is an interesting one.BR>

There are two very interesting things about the movie for me beyond all this.

First is that it was directed by Clark Johnson, an almost-Canadian (he is Molly Johnson’s sister) who I’d known previously only from his work on the early-1990s CTV drama E.N.G. and the late-1990s television version of Homicide: Life on the Street. I enjoyed him in both roles (they were similar — the “disaffected witty tough with a soft side”). Apparently he’s a director now, and S.W.A.T. is his first feature after a decade of television work. He’s good at it, and I suspect that we’ll see more of him.

The second interesting thing about S.W.A.T. (warning: plot spoiler coming up) is that one of the plot points involves the liberation by force of an international thug by a rag-tag crew of street gangs, well equipped with rocket launchers and 18 wheelers as weapons. Their motivation, $100 million offered by their prey for his release, is enough to get them working together as a well-oiled machine. This is interesting because you gotta figure that there are enough disaffected American tough guys with smarts and access to resources that the notion of getting better organized and making some serious inroads is inevitable, especially now that the universe of what one can use as a weapon has expanded beyond the traditional. Johnson’s movie shows what’s possible; you fill in the rest.

Catherine and I ended up at S.W.A.T., by the way, because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to see a movie in Mandarin with English subtitles even if Joe Sherman said it was good. And on a Labor Day weekend, in downtown Charlottetown, if you don’t want to go out for a drink well, what else is there to do?

I should add, for completeness, that we began the evening at The Churchill Arms (nee The Harp and Thistle). Catherine is a regular and enthusiastic customer; I am on record as been morally opposed to their cuisine. We had an excellent meal (I had the chicken korma, Catherine the chicken madras), served by top-flight wait staff, in a pleasant, smoke-free environment. It doesn’t get any better than that, and if this keeps up I’m going to have to take back my earlier unkind words.


Mandy's picture
Mandy on August 31, 2003 - 15:00 Permalink

[quote] First is that it was directed by Clark Johnson, an almost-Canadian (he is Molly Johnson’s sister) [/quote]

Is his because he does all his directing while in drag??

Ken's picture
Ken on August 31, 2003 - 15:23 Permalink

Shame on you for letting subtitles block you from a distant culture’s story. Are you waiting to learn Mandarin first?

S.W.A.T. is a control fantasy played out with technical details that wowed me as a child — I wanted to be a SWAT guy — who wouldn’t? Sadly though, special weapons will never cure a psychopath or stop the harm done by an enraged spouse. We will however all feel better about the militarisation of our civil police — go SWAT!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on August 31, 2003 - 16:14 Permalink

Ken, we did consider attempting to learn Mandarin in the 90 minutes between the end of supper and the start of the movie, but eventually dropped that plan because it is a very complex language.

Ken's picture
Ken on August 31, 2003 - 16:37 Permalink

…translated into english subtitles.

You chose the dumb movie with guns!

Maybe you should have gone to a shooting range for those 90 minutes and then watched Together