(PG-13) 3 1/2 stars

(PG-13) 3 1/2 stars
S.W.A.T. is a welcome throwback to the old school of action films, before the genre was swallowed by computer graphics and storylines filled with superheroes instead of people. Understand, the film does push the limits of credulity, but it does so without ever becoming cartoonish. Based on the ’70s TV series remembered more for its theme music than its content, the movie is 116 minutes of testosterone-filled fun. Why ‘S.W.A.T.’ works The set-up is simple. Colin Farrell plays police officer Jim Street, a S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) team member who gets bounced from the unit thanks to his hothead partner, Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), who gets bounced from the force completely. Street gets a second chance when new commander Dan “Hondo” Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles a new S.W.A.T. team and squeezes him in. The hook is inspired. To generate the required amount of action, the writers came up with a great idea: When French-born international drug lord Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), a.k.a. “Le Loup Rouge” (The Red Wolf), gets hauled in (over a broken tail-light), he offers $100,000,000 to anyone that breaks him out of jail and gets him out of the country, thereby assuring that every criminal in L.A. will cook up a major assault. Cool. The cast is appealing. Samuel L. Jackson gets to be both self-righteous and funny, while Colin Farrell gives a nicely measured performance that neatly underplays his star status. The rest of the S.W.A.T. team actors are James Todd Smith, nee LL Cool J, charming as Deacon “Deke” Kaye; Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) as Chris Sanchez, effective — though one-note — as the most macho member of the group; Josh Charles (Sports Night) as T.J. McCabe; and Brian Van Holt as Michael Boxer. In the role of Street’s disgraced ex-partner, Jeremy Renner (Dahmer) is wonderfully snide and Olivier Martinez (Unfaithful) gives the proper weight to his villainous role. The proper clichés are present. Police action films demand the appearance of certain clichés and the film does them right. Heroic cops must have an idiotic superior officer that rants, threatens and undermines them as often as possible. The D.A. (designated asshole) here is Capt. Thomas Fuller and, in the capable hands of Larry Poindexter, he is a memorable little weasel. Police action films also require one scene where a hero and a villain throw down their guns and duke it out man to man. No spoilers — suffice to say it gets taken care of here. The action scenes take place at that perfect point between outlandish and preposterous. While the story pushes suspension of disbelief to the edge, it never crosses the line. It would require incredibly quick organization on a grand scale, extreme coincidence and lots of good luck, but what we see could conceivably happen, and that’s all that is required. The story takes place on our Earth. Midway through the proceedings, during a victory party at a cop bar, the team members sing the theme from the S.W.A.T. TV series. Nice touch The film generates a genuine sense of urgency. When the transfer of the drug lord from the city jail to prison begins, the tension ratchets up noticeably. As the cameras panned the L.A. skyline and the propulsive score pounded away, I got that tingly “Oh God, all hell is about to break loose” feeling. What happens next delivers on that promise. So there you go. While S.W.A.T. is by no means a great movie, it is a solid good one. And after the string of disappointments from the genre this summer, that is cause for celebration.

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