S.W.A.T.

Posted on August 5, 2003 at 10:18 am

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking, reference to drug dealing
Violence/ Scariness: Extensive action violence and peril, characters killed, suicide
Diversity Issues: Very diverse characters work well together
Date Released to Theaters: 2003

If this movie was going to be sold in a grocery store, it would be in a plain white box with black letters that say, “GENERIC SUMMER EXPLOSION MOVIE.” It is as predictable as the rhymes in a limerick, but as predictably entertaining as well. There are no surprises in the story, but the action sequences deliver the goods that audiences for this film are there to receive.

The story follows Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) — the character names taken from the TV show give you an idea of the level of creative inspiration here — Special Weapons and Tactics officers who get into trouble in a hostage situation when Gamble shoots without authorization. They are thrown off of the SWAT squad, and Gamble quits in disgust. Street stays on, willing to serve time in the gun cage and earn his way back onto SWAT. Gamble feels betrayed.

Hondo Harrison (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SWAT commander, is called back into action and assembles a new team, including Street, Deke (LL Cool J), and Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez). We get to see them bond in a generic training montage and pass their big test just in time for the biggest SWAT challenge ever. An international dealer in drugs, weapons, and every sort of generic bad thing has offered a reward of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail. This attracts every kind of thug and the ones with no idea about what they are doing are just as big a threat as the ones who do.

It is a shame to assemble a high-powered cast of some of the most talented and charismatic people in Hollywood and then not give them any opportunities to let them show us what they can do. There is nothing distinctive about the characters (they are, yes, generic), despite brief attempts to sketch in some details by showing one with a child, another on a date, and some tender partings when the officers’ beepers go off. All these moments do is make stupifyingly obvious the supposed surprise plot twist half an hour before it occurs. Even more obvious is a “You’re Chris Sanchez?” surprise that the officer played by Rodriguez is a woman; this from someone who is supposed to have selected her by reading through her file.

Parents should know that the movie has extensive action peril and violence (not much blood, not too graphic). Characters are hurt and killed. There are some bad words. There are sexual references and situations, but nothing explicit. A character barfs onscreen. Suicide is portrayed as an honorable choice following disgrace. There is a politically incorrect Polish joke.

Families who see this movie should talk about the choice the captain presented to Street and how he responded. When do you decide not to follow rules or orders? They should also talk about the other alternatives the character who commits suicide might have chosen.

Families who enjoy this movie might like to take a look at the original television series, S.W.A.T. – The Complete First Season, now available on DVD. they will also enjoy The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven.

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Le Divorce

Posted on August 2, 2003 at 2:12 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Murders (offscreen), attempted suicide
Diversity Issues: Cultural differences a theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2003

“Le Divorce” may look and sound like a glossy romantic comedy but it is instead an uneven take on the culture clash between America and France.

Kate Hudson plays Isabel, a California girl arriving in Paris to help her pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts). But just as Isabel arrives, Roxy’s artist husband Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) leaves. So Isabel and Roxy are set adrift in a culture and legal system that is, well, foreign to them.

Both are very drawn to France where, as American expatriate writer Olivia Pace (Glenn Close) says, you could write a book chapter just about the way French women wear their scarves. Isabel, who arrives in California pastels and shell jewelry, is soon exploring French culture just as Americans have done for centuries — she becomes romantically involved. And not with one Frenchman, but two — Olivia Pace’s young assistant and an elegant, distinguished, and wealthy older man who is Charles-Henri’s uncle Edgar (a very dapper Thierry Lhermitte). Edgar is very direct with Isabel, asking her to be his mistress and sending her an Hermes Kelly bag (a very expensive purse).

But Isabel and Roxy do not know how to deal with the subtlety and indirection of the rest of Charles-Henri’s family, led by his mother (Leslie Caron). They serve exquisite meals and make soothing comments, but do not provide any opportunities for Roxy to talk about her situation. Meanwhile, they appear to be plotting to have a painting hanging in Roxy’s apartment declared to be part of the marital assets to be divided in the divorce. Roxy says that the painting belonged to her family, who just loaned it to her for her apartment. But it now appears that the painting might be much more valuable than they had thought, and Charles-Henri’s brother brings in a curator from the Louvre to authenticate it as a Georges de la Tour.

The ambiguity of the painting’s provenance (three different experts come to see it and all have different opinions) and its status as a marital asset parallels the precariousness Roxy and Isabel experience in their relationships. Roxy wants Charles-Henri to stay with her and their daughter and new baby, but he is in love with a Russian woman whose American husband (Matthew Modine) is frantic with grief. Isabel has something of a French makeover through her relationship with Edgar, but it doesn’t quite take — Edgar has to keep reminding her that she is carrying the Kelly bag on the wrong occasions.

All of the performances sparkle and there are some witty and sharply observed moments. But the movie’s own perspective becomes too ambiguous, especially when it veers into a tragedy that throws everything out of balance.

Parents should know that the movie has mature themes, sexual references and situations, including adultery. There is some strong language. And there is an attempted suicide, a character who threatens other characters with a gun, and serious (off-screen) violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way the different characters see and react to the same things — for example, the painting, marital fidelity, discussion of sensitive topics. Is that due to differences in culture or to something else?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Amelie.

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