Hollywood’s patriotism may not be quite the reliable thing it was during the Second World War, but at least the French come in for a good pasting in Clark Johnson’s S.W.A.T. whose villain (Olivier Martinez) is a frankly unbelievable international crime lord. Having murdered both his father and his uncle for no apparent reason — perhaps they were guilty of some lapse of taste? — this monstre is picked up by the L.A.P.D. for having a tail-light out. When a collection of international warrants against him come to light, he offers $100 million to anyone who will break him out of prison.

That makes this a high-concept movie, I guess, but the concept is so lame that Johnson rightly doesn’t make too much of it. Still, he asks us to believe, first, that the media would relay the bad guy’s message to the public as a serious offer, then that enterprising criminals and non-criminals both would come forward in huge numbers to try their luck at winning this prize by murdering policemen and guards and, finally, that the general willingness to be corrupted by the Frenchman’s money extends even to the police force itself.

“American greed!” as Frenchie says contemptuously: “So reliable!”

Well, if anything like this had ever actually happened, he might have a point. But it hasn’t. Can it be only because nobody has hitherto thought to make the offer? I know that in movie-land these days there is hardly a scruple left when it comes to the eighth commandment. More often than not, movie thieves are heroes and are allowed in the end to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. Certainly no one ever has a crisis of conscience over anything so trivial as a failure to distinguish between mine and thine.

In the world that most of us live in, however, things are a bit different. Even in the movie, most of the policemen scorn the gold of the filthy Frog, and they are meant to be seen as admirable for doing so. But Johnson offers us no insights into why they might prefer to do their duty rather than to become rich criminals enjoying a comfortable retirement on the French — naturellement! — Riviera. The way things are going these days, I suppose we should be grateful that the traitor is not the hero.

But those who are the heroes are in no meaningful way differentiated from him, apart from being more handsome and more charming and having more clever-cop one-liners. Is there some central script bank, by the way, where screenwriters can go to get these? I imagine that actual cops could make a bit of money by writing down the funny things they say and then selling them to such a central depositary. Lord knows, the demand for police wit in Hollywood far outruns the supply.

Anyway, Johnson is left to disguise the central incoherence in his movie with the usual array of crashing cars and flying bullets and picturesque explosions. Oh, and then there’s the tremendous suspense as to whether or not the young hot-head S.W.A.T. team member (Colin Farrell) will win his place back on the squad when it is re-organized by the “old school” S.W.A.T. guy (Samuel L. Jackson) from the “gold- standard of ass-kicking.” What do you think are the chances? And I wonder if you can guess where the young hot-head’s ex-partner (Jeremy Renner), thrown off the force for excessive zeal, is going to end up? And what about that cute ethnic girl (Michelle Rodriguez)? Do you think she’ll be as tough a SWAT-ter as the men?

Not that Johnson doesn’t try very hard to think up original variations on the familiar themes. In one sequence the good guys, in a commandeered stretch limo, have to try to maneuver their car so as to prevent a Lear jet from taking off from a bridge in the middle of Los Angeles while under continual fire from automatic weapons. If that kind of thing is what you go down to the multiplex to see, you may not be so disappointed as I was.

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