SWAT appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie mostly presented the kind of picture expected of a big-budget Hollywood affair, but it felt short of greatness.
Sharpness almost always looked terrific. A slight amount of softness infused a few wide shots, but those instances remained minor. Overall, the flick seemed crisp and detailed. No issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I noticed a bit of light edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, these seemed absent, though some artifacting slightly interfered with the image at times.
Given the Michael Bay influence seen in SWAT, it came as no surprise that it featured a fairly stylized palette at times. Actually, many of the hues looked fairly natural, but the movie occasionally went for more forced tones. The movie replicated these colors cleanly and accurately. Black levels were nicely deep and dense, and low-light shots came across as distinctive and well defined. Ultimately, while I felt SWAT lacked the polish to merit an “A”-level grade, it still seemed strong enough to earn a “B+”.
Some similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of SWAT. On the positive side, the mix offered a very active affair. From the opening hostage drama and all its gunfire through the movie’s other action sequences, the flick used all five channels on a very frequent basis. Lots of effects elements popped up from the sides and rears to create an aggressive track.
Unfortunately, these pieces didn’t always blend together terribly well. I got too much of a “speaker-specific” feeling from the mix at times. Localization appeared a bit too firm, and the elements didn’t mesh tremendously well. These concerns didn’t seem major, but the detracted somewhat from what otherwise would be a terrific track.
Audio quality appeared solid. Speech occasionally got a little buried under all the effects, but the lines consistently sounded natural and distinctive. Music was bright and dynamic, with clean highs and good range. Effects were reproduced nicely as well. They always seemed clear and accurate, and they showed terrific bass when appropriate. Low-end came across as tight and bold. The soundfield melded a little too awkwardly to make this a great track, but it seemed pretty satisfying nonetheless.
For the supplements of SWAT, we open with two separate audio commentaries. The first includes remarks from director Clark Johnson plus actors Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Michelle Rodriguez, Josh Charles, Brian Van Holt, and Jeremy Renner. All the actors sit together, while Johnson’s individual screen-specific comments get edited into theirs. Actually, it works the other way around for the most part, as Johnson dominates the piece. The actors contribute little and offer virtually nothing of consequence. They crack on the movie and each other but don’t tell us anything memorable.
Johnson helps make this a reasonably entertaining track, however. He stays with basics like locations, stunts, effects, working with the actors, and various logistical challenges such as the problems with filming in LA. Johnson doesn’t go into anything terribly revealing or fascinating, but he provides such a likable and easy-going personality that he makes the commentary work. More than a few gaps mar the proceedings, and the actors’ sections always drag, but the director’s statements enable this track to come across as fairly interesting.
On the second commentary, we hear from writers Ron Mita, Jim McClain, David McKenna and David Ayer. (The DVD’s case incorrectly refers to the involvement of a technical consultant.) All four men sit together and provide running, screen-specific comments. In a telling indication of how Hollywood works, early on we learn that some of them never met before this session, and at its best, this commentary gives us insight to the realities of modern script-writing. The four tell us of other projects and specialties and we learn about alterations made between various revisions of the text. They also crack on the movie’s clichés and give us a solid glimpse of their work within the Hollywood system. As with the first commentary, too much dead air appears, though this never becomes pervasive. Instead, the writers’ track provides an informative discussion.
Next we get a collection of eight deleted scenes. These last between 18 seconds and 117 seconds for a total of seven minutes, 33 seconds of footage. As usually occurs with action flicks, the character moments get the boot, and that’s what we find here. None of them seem crucial – or interesting, for that matter. A Gag Reel lasts 176 seconds. I normally don’t like these, but this one’s pretty good. It includes amusing bloopers plus a bunch of funny gags like Colin Farrell’s beer, cigarettes and tiny dumbbell workout.
The DVD presents five separate featurettes. Anatomy of a Shootout runs nine minutes, five seconds and examines the film’s opening sequence. It mixes movie shots, images from the set, and interviews. We get notes from director Johnson, first assistant director Lars Winther, editor Michael Tronick, location manager Mark Johnson, police technical advisor Randy Walker, supervising sound editor Cameron Frankley, and armorer Mike Papac. They go into the technical elements and logistics of the shoot for this scene. They make this all interesting and not too dry as they provide a lively examination of the sequence.
For a look at the film’s inspiration, we go to SWAT - TV’s Original Super Cops. The six-minute and 58-second featurette includes many show clips plus remarks from LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Hollywood Reporter TV critic Ray Richmond, and original actors Steve Forrest and Rod Perry. We get some history of the series and impressions of it. The program provides a fairly generic look at the show, but it gives us decent background notes.
The DVD’s longest program, The Making of SWAT runs 21 minutes and 39 seconds. The show includes comments from director Johnson, producer Neal H. Moritz, police technical advisor Walker, former SWAT officer Steve Gomez, SWAT officers Mike Baker and Lee McMillian, and actors Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, LL Cool J, Brian Van Holt, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeremy Renner, Olivier Martinez, and Josh Charles. The show goes through basics related to the cast, their training, and the story. Expect a lot of happy talk and little substance in this fluffy and generally uninformative piece.
Next we get 6th Street Bridge – Achieving the Improbable. In this five-minute and 21-second piece, we find the usual mix of movie snippets, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from production designer Mayne Berke, second unit director Jim Arnett, visual effects animator Clay Dale, and computer graphics supervisor Micheal Hardison. They go through the work done to create the 6th Street Bridge plane landing; that involves both practical and computer elements. Quick and efficient, the featurette covers the material well and offers a tight little look at the topic.
For an interactive featurette, we get Sound & Fury – The Sounds of SWAT. This allows us to get a feel for how the flick’s audio was created. In the “Sounds of SWAT” section, we click on different objects like headphones and weapons to get additional mini-featurettes. “The Sounds of SWAT” features editor Tronick and supervisor sound editor Frankley as they talk about different audio stems used and how they got them in this four minute, 35 second piece.
The other elements in this area give us text information about four different weapons plus demos of them. We see film clips that feature the weapons and hear comments about them from armorer Papac and/or police technical advisor Walker. These last between 75 seconds and 130 seconds for a total of five minutes of footage.
Also under the “Sound & Fury” umbrella, “Scene Breakdowns” lets us examine audio elements for four different scenes: “Bank”, “Hollywood”, “Ambush” and “Bridge”. Each of these can be viewed with any of four tracks: gunshots, impacts, mechanics, or full gun effects. These allow us a nice way to check out the creation of the audio track. All of them feature full 5.1 sound for each track.
Filmographies show up for actors Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez and LL Cool J. Finally, we get trailers for Bad Boys II, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Radio, Underworld, Big Fish and “TV Action Favorites”. Oddly, no trailer for SWAT itself appears.
A generic action flick, SWAT brings virtually nothing new to the genre. Had it at least followed its clichés and predictable material in a satisfying way, I’d have enjoyed it, but it seems dull and never does anything to entice the viewer’s interest. The DVD presents generally solid picture and sound plus a good set of extras highlighted by a pair of informative audio commentaries. Fans of SWAT will like this DVD, but I can’t recommend this weak and uninspired movie to anyone else.