The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
S.W.A.T.: Fire Fight (2011)
What we got here is a Stage 6 production of a S.W.A.T. DTV sequel set in Detroit, and it's on Watch Instantly. It's got everything I could need, right? Plus it's got Giancarlo Esposito and DTVC favorite Robert Patrick. Why then am I so apprehensive?...
S.W.A.T.: Fire Fight has Gabriel Macht as one of the best SWAT team leaders in the country, leading his team in the always violent LA. He's hired to go out to Detroit to get their team certified for some new anti-terrorist stuff or something, and, of course, when he gets out there, he ruffles some feathers. None more so than that of Robert Patrick, whom the Macht led Detroit SWAT team encounters holding his estranged girlfriend, Painkiller Jane, at gunpoint. She kills herself because they won't kill Patrick, and now Patrick wants his revenge. Poor Macht doesn't know what he's in for, but he's ready for it.
This had some good things going for it. Macht, for starters, was pretty sweet as the lead. I'd like to see what he'd do with some better material. Patick and Esposito were equally solid, which is no surprise. Some of the action was pretty decent too. The problem was the story and the execution. First off, we have more training than we do actual action. You can only make training so good, and this didn't even do that, saddling us with first-person shooter cam. Who thinks that's a good idea? We like it in video games because we're the ones doing the shooting. In a movie it's just annoying. The execution of the Patrick revenge was also a little plodding, coming in fits and starts, and then ending in something that had potential, but ended up being all over the place. The whole movie should've been Macht and his new SWAT team going in and battling with Patrick and a bunch of stuntmen holed up in a building. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and ultimately, neither did this movie.
I think in general, the idea of SWAT seems more exciting in movie form than it actually is. I watched the reality show based on the Dallas SWAT team, and while this had more compelling characters in people like Macht and Patrick, it needed to find a way to make it's stylized violence and it's fictional story more entertaining than watching real people rip down a door and toss some flash-bangs into a real drug dealer's house. That's where this movie missed the mark. What's compelling about training? What's compelling about first-person shooter cam? What's compelling about Patrick toying with Macht, when we all know where the story is going. Cut to the chase, amp up the action, and get us into a big building Die Hard style and kick some ass for 60 minutes. That's what we're here for.
Robert Patrick has always made an excellent baddie, and this is no exception. Unfortunately he's forced to go through a lot of the classic baddie clichés: the creepy phone calls, the intel on the SWAT crew, finishing with the no-win situation for our hero to try to mitigate, which the film totally bungles and pretty much ignores after they set the parameters. He had the potential to be a Texas-style Hans Gruber, and it would've been nice if the film had let him. Also gotta say that they dropped the ball with Macht's character too. He had a lot of style and charm early in the film, but as the plot spirals out of control, so does his character, and he loses all of what made him compelling. Macht and Patrick should've been a great two sides of the same coin type of foes.
Maybe the worst injustice done to a character was Shannon Kane as the equal parts hot and deadly Iraq vet who is called in at Macht's request to help train the SWAT team. She goes from being totally kick ass to nothing more than a damsel in distress at the end of the film. The thing was, we already had the psychiatrist/love interest that's been kidnapped, so we didn't need Kane too, except for the fact that she's a woman in an action film, and as such needs to be tied to chair and anxiously awaiting our hero to rescue her. She should've been with our hero helping to save the day, not needing saving. Also, while we're on the subject, the character of the psychiatrist (played by Carly Pope), is wasted as a damsel in distress as well. She's a psychiatrist, there should've been some interplay between her and Patrick where she tries to manipulate him into letting her go or letting his guard down. Maybe she's even an agent in her own rescue. Anyway, like most of the film, it was a wasted opportunity.
Finally, I wanted to look at the trend of DTV action flicks set in and shot in Detroit. It's like we're getting a new "Detroitsploitation", and I for one am excited about the possibilities. Can it have the same success as the great Cannuxploitation flicks of the 90s? So far not really so good, but I'm still holding out hope. Maybe with the success of The Expendables we can get some film makers in that aren't about camera gimmicks and silly MTV edits we don't need, and some writers with some straight ahead action plots that are more about the exploding cars and the sweet martial arts than they are about padding a wafer-thin story with more wafer-thin story. The possibilities of a new Detroitsploitation are endless, but as of right now we've barely scratched the surface.
And chalk this one up as one that's a missed Detroitsploitation opportunity, because, while it had some good qualities, overall it missed on a lot of the things it tried. The ultimate flaw was that we as an audience knew all along where they were going, but they still tried to keep us from getting there with stuff that we didn't necessarily need. Hopefully, if there's another S.W.A.T. DTV sequel, it'll get right down to the action.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1621429/