"Get more officers!"
"Officer down! Officer down!"
"Requesting SWAT! Code Three!"
Jim Street (Colin Farrell) is an officer on the Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT Team. However, after his partner Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) disobeys orders and accidentally shoots a hostage while foiling a bank robbery both of them are thrown off the team.
Six months later, courtesy of the intervention of Sgt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson), Street gets a second chance as part of Hondo's new, handpicked S.W.A.T. unit. But can the team complete its first major assignment, to deliver a French mob boss (Olivier Martinez) into federal custody, after said mob boss has offered $100 million to anyone who breaks him out?
Also stars LL Cool J as Officer Deacon "Deeks" Kay and Michelle Rodriguez as Officer Chris Sanchez. It received a Direct-to-Video sequel, SWAT Firefight, in 2011, for which none of the actors returned.
- Action Prologue: Consisting of LAPD patrol officers, then SWAT, responding to a bank robbery and hostage crisis. The consequences for Street and Gamble, part of the SWAT unit, inform most of the rest of the film.
- Adaptational Villainy: T.J. pulls a FaceHeel Turn about two-thirds of the way through the movie.
- Affirmative Action Girl: A new character was added for the film: Christina Sanchez, a woman who has repeatedly applied to join SWAT but was rejected for being a girl, with her number of police brutality given as a reason for not allowing her to join accusations, actually just perps who were embarrassed at being taken down by a girl. And then came Samuel L. Jackson...
- Armor Is Useless: Very averted. The bank robbers in the opening sequence are wearing heavy body armor against which the patrol officers' weapons are useless, and even forces the SWAT Team to go for headshots, and Chris Sanchez's Kevlar saves her life at the climax.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: In Chris Sanchez's introduction, Hondo asks her if she still wants to work SWAT.
- Based on a True Story: The opening shootout was modeled after the real life North Hollywood bank robbery, and a cut scene had police officers raiding a gun shop just to get rifles with armor piercing bullets. A lot of work went into the scene, as no bank would allow a robbery to be staged (it was done in the building of one that had gone out of business), and many waivers had to be signed for the use of military helicopters to fly overhead.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: T.J. shoots himself when his betrayal plan to get Montel out of the country fails, on top of his guilt of Boxer being shot by Gamble because of it.
- Black Guy Dies First/Vasquez Always Dies: Averted. The team features two black guys and a feisty Latina played by Michelle Rodriguez, and all three of them make it to the credits. The rest of the team is made up of white males, not all of whom survive. Also, of the four core heroes, Chris is the only one who is shot during the climax, but she's fine.
- Boom, Headshot!:
- The two robbers that SWAT officers kill outside the bank in the opening sequence are both dropped by headshots after their body armor proves too tough: one is sniped when he tries to steal a car, the other intentionally hit in the head during a gun battle. Gamble is also going for a headshot on the hostage taker when he disobeys orders to hold position, but hits the hostage in the shoulder instead.
- In a deleted scene, Hondo advises Sanchez during training to keep her headshots on the "vermilion line", a term that Street then has to explain (it's approximately the area from the eyebrows to the lips).
- Bulletproof Vest: Used as a matter of course and played realistically.
Sanchez: Remind me to buy some shares in Kevlar.
- The Action Prologue has the first responders call for SWAT because the bank robbers are wearing body armor and their Berettas just aren't cutting it. The two outside the bank are taken down by headshots, one by a sniper, one by assault rifle fire. A deleted scene also shows two officers turning up at a gun shop asking the proprietor if he has "anything that can penetrate body armor" (something that happened in the historical North Hollywood shootout the sequence is based on).
- The SWAT teams also all wear body armor throughout the film. At the climax, Sanchez is shot once in the arm and at least once in the chest. She's knocked flat but survives.
- By-the-Book Cop: One such officer shows up as a candidate for Hondo's team, mentioning in his interview how he is "courteous and professional" with everyone he encounters. He also reacts negatively to Hondo's suggestion that SWAT team members may have to "get dirty" in the course of their duties. Hondo immediately drops him from consideration.
- Celebrity Paradox: The TV show clearly exists in the movie universe: the team sings the theme tune after passing the SWAT test and Boxer is outright seen watching it on his day off. That the names of several of the team members are exactly the same as the characters goes unmentioned.
- Canon Foreigner: Officer Christina Sanchez is the one member of the main team that isn't based on a character from the original show. She replaces the show's Officer Dominic Luca, who doesn't appear in the film at all.
- Car Fu: In the climax, Hondo uses a limo to take down a private plane by ramming the landing gear. He cites "America's Scariest Police Chases" as his inspiration.
- Chekhov's Gag: Early in the movie, Street refuses to tell Hondo what his specialty in the SEALs was during a joking conversation that involves some Navy/Marines ribbing and Street cracking that his boat crew chief said that "if anyone knew what we did, we'd failed." As it turns out towards the end, he was a demolitions expert, which comes in handy when the team needs to get out of the sewers to pursue Gamble.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- "The Key to the City", a device for breaching walls that Street developed while in stuck in the gun cage on Punishment Detail. He gives an infodump on it after Gus trips over it. Used later to deal with the "Polish hostage" after the guy claims he's got all the doors and windows wired with high explosives. Apparently he didn't think to wire the wall above his sofa.
- The claymore mine that Gamble leaves in the sewers as a trap for Hondo's team. The team avoids it thanks to Street spotting the tripwire, but later uses it to blast their way out of the sewers when Gamble tries to lock them in.
- Cop Killer: Alex Montel never actually pulls the trigger on one, but two L.A. County sheriff's deputies, an LAPD helicopter crew, one motorcycle cop, and one SWAT officer die as a result of his actions and the team considers him no better than the people who did pull the trigger. And neither does he, apparently:Montel: American greed. It's so reliable.
Street: SHUT UP! Another officer's dead 'cause you shot your mouth off.
Montel: That's how I like cops: Dead.
- Cowboy Cop: First deconstructed, then reconstructed. Gamble's recklessness costs him and Street their places on the team, but unlike the by-the-book Captain Fuller, Hondo's approach includes the mentality that from time to time, a cop "may have to get a little dirty behind a street bust", and he's entirely willing to take action without authorization. At the same time, though, he emphasizes that "SWAT is a life-saving organization, not a life-taking one."
- Cutting the Knot: Deke is introduced in foot pursuit of a petty criminal. Street gets out of the car to join the pursuit, but Hondo goes around the block in the car to get ahead of them, then steps out from behind a house and clotheslines him.
- Creator Cameo:
- Director Clark Johnson cameos as Deke's partner, who gets hit with a frying pan as Deke chases a suspect.
- When the facial recognition software is being used to identify Alex Montel, ID photos of the movie's entire crew appear as the high speed shuffling of faces on the monitor. On DVD if you step through that sequence frame by frame you can see almost every member of the Film crew. All photos were taken by Dave Nico, the movie's assistant coordinator.
- Crooks Are Better Armed: Two incidents:
- The Action Prologue is based on the infamous North Hollywood shootout (detailed in Real Life below), with a gang of bank robbers armed with Kalashnikovs and wearing body armor going up against patrol officers armed with pistols. A Deleted Scene has a couple of officers come rushing into a gun store and frantically ask if the proprietor has anything that can penetrate body armor. Then the SWAT Team shows up and kills the two robbers outside, reducing it to a hostage situation.
- After Alex Montel offers $100 million to free him, an L.A. gang attacks the police motorcade transporting a dummy standing in for Montel to federal prison, armed with submachine guns and rocket launchers.
- Da Chief: Captain Fuller. Less shouty than most examples; he almost never raises his voice. Far from perfect, but clearly a competent commander - he just has serious trouble getting past his prejudices regarding Street and Sanchez, Street because he was Gamble's partner, and Sanchez because she's a woman.
- Decoy Convoy: after an LAPD helicopter attempting to take Alex Montel to a federal prison is shot down, they make a second attempt with a motorcade, which is attacked by a group of heavily armed Gang Bangers. One makes it all the way to one of the SUVs before discovering that there's only a dummy inside; Hondo and Street's SWAT Team snuck the real Montel out in unmarked cars with the motorcade as a diversion. Boxer comments that Hondo once used the same trick to move the President in a Noodle Incident.
- Decoy Protagonist: If it's your first time seeing the movie, the opening sequence can fool you into thinking that Gamble's the lead. Jeremy Renner's Retroactive Recognition as Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies assists in that regard, but more importantly, he's written and played like every maverick get-the-job-done-no-matter-what action hero you've seen... for the first ten minutes. (Though the movie posters kinda spoil the plot point.) The actual protagonist is his more cool-headed and professional partner Jim Street.
- Evil Pays Better: Alex Montel's family fortunes are in the hundreds of millions if not billions, and he uses this to try bribing the officers holding him.Montel: What do you make, $66,000 a year?
Street: Not even with overtime.
- Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The opening sequence is based on the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, where two heavily armed and armored bank robbers engaged the LAPD in a 45-minute gun battle before they were finally both killed by a SWAT Team. The film adds two additional robbers inside the bank who take hostages, but uses radio clips from the real event. A deleted scene also has two patrol officers show up at a gun store looking for rifles that can penetrate body armor, which also happened during the historical shootout.
- Fast-Roping: Gamble and Street enter the bank in the opening sequence by fast-roping from a helicopter down to the bank's roof.
- Flashed-Badge Hijack: Done by the team in the climax with a prom party's limo, after being ordered not to pursue Gamble when he frees Montel.
- Foreshadowing: During the team's mock hostage situation which determines whether or not they'll pass their SWAT training, TJ is the only one who is tagged and 'killed' by the fake terrorists. He's the only member of the SWAT team who dies.
- Just before the team is called into work on their day off, there is a brief montage of what they're doing in their leisure time. Street and Chris are at Chris' daughter's birthday party, Boxer is at home watching television, Deek is at the grocery store with his kids, and T.J. is on a date at a high-end restaurant. Only one of these isn't a blue-collar activity that's regularly affordable on a cop's salary.
- Just to further drive the point home, TJ is the last to arrive when the team assembles to escort Montel into federal custody. It's later revealed he was running late because he tipped off Gamble.
- Formerly Fat: To the team's amusement, they find out Deek was quite a heavyset kid before turning into the eight-pack machine that is LL Cool J.
- Gender-Blender Name/Gender Misdirection/Samus Is a Girl: When Hondo and Street go recruiting, Sanchez is found at the hospital after having beaten the crap out of a Gang Banger. Hondo is very surprised to learn that "Chris" Sanchez is a Spicy Latina a good foot-and-a-half shorter than him.Hondo: Sorry, wrong room.
Sanchez: Who were you looking for?
Hondo: Chris Sanchez.
Sanchez: I'm Chris Sanchez.
Hondo: You're Chris Sanchez?
- Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: The unnamed French-speaking syndicate that Alex Montel belongs to. Possibly it's le Milieu, the Corsican mafia.
- Glamorous Single Mother: Averted with Sanchez. The night the team passes the SWAT test she starts complaining when none of the guys (except Street) wants to go out drinking with her after she managed to find a babysitter for the first time in four months. And then later she's on call during her kid's birthday party and gets called in.
- Greed: TJ betrays the team for the payday.
- Hilarity Sues/Reality Ensues: Happens with the reaction to Gamble's violation of orders resulting in an accidental Shoot the Hostage. The department is sued and he and his partner are reassigned from SWAT. See Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! below.
- Hypocrite: Most of Gamble's talk about always sticking by your partner no matter what rings hollow when he accuses Street of selling him out to Fuller with no evidence at all. (Street didn't turn on him.) And if that wasn't enough, the fact that he is willing to turn on, shoot, and possibly kill guys like Boxer and Street who he served on the force with makes it clear he's just a cutthroat who ultimately only cares about himself.
- Impersonating an Officer: The first attempt to break Montel out involves two of his guys dressing as police officers and pulling over Montel's prison bus.
- Interservice Rivalry: Marines/Navy, played for laughs between Street, a former Navy SEAL, and Hondo, a former Marine. Hondo asks Street what he did in the SEALs.Street: Besides rescue Marines when they got lost?
- Jerkass Has a Point: Pretty much every criticism Fuller levels Gamble and Street's way after the bungled hostage situation at the beginning of the film is perfectly valid. He also later makes an equally great point when he is reluctant to trust Hondo's team after one the them turns on the rest to spring the terrorist they were transporting.
- Large Ham: Alex Montel. ONE HUNDRED MEEL-YON DOLLARS!
- Lawman Gone Bad: Gamble descends into a life of crime after being kicked off SWAT and leaving the force. TJ later joins him after betraying the team.
- Misidentified Weapons: During Montel's attempted escape from the prison bus, his henchmen are armed with suppressed pistols and a single compact SMG. Afterwards, the captain holding a press conference announces that they were "armed with AK-47s", even though nobody had anything that even looked like an AK. This may be a case of unintentional (or maybe deliberate) Truth in Television, as the LAPD has been accused of (and occasionally caught red-handed) falsely claiming that such weapons were used in one crime or another to support the strict gun laws that the city of Los Angeles has used its considerable political clout to push through the California legislature.
- Never My Fault: Gamble blames Street and Fuller for his career on the force hitting a dead end, even though he was the one who disobeyed orders and accidentally shot a hostage.
- N-Word Privileges: A cut scene had Hondo's Token Black Friend introduce him as "making his first stealth entry, incog-negro."
- One-Word Title
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Hondo's first name is "Dan", but the scene that revealed this was cut. Sanchez and T.J.'s full names are never revealed either. Deeks' full name is "Deacon Kay" but he's only called that briefly in one scene when Captain Fuller reads his name off his dossier.
- Pass the Popcorn: TJ is munching away as Street argues and fights with Boxer over his sister.
- Perp Walk: Montel yells out a reward of one hundred million dollars to the person that frees him as he walks to the police station, setting up the story in the rest of the film.
- Police Brutality:
- Played for Laughs when Street and Hondo crash Deke's arrest of an African-American suspect after a foot pursuit and a black woman across the street criticizes them for "perpetuating the cycle" by arresting a black man. The laugh is that the arresting officers just happen to be Hondo and Deke, who are also black (Street chased him, too, but was behind Deeks).
- Discussed with Chris Sanchez's apparently sizable number of excessive force complaints, which, having initially mistaken Hondo for an Internal Affairs officer, she explains as just being perps who resisted arrest and then got embarrassed at having been taken down by a woman.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: After being introduced to Sanchez, Gamble makes a snide remark about "kicking down doors with J-Lo" and says, "I didn't know they made bulletproof bras." (Sanchez retorts, "What they need to make are bulletproof condoms big enough to fit your big head.)
- Pulled from Your Day Off: Provides the page quote. The day after the team passes the SWAT test, they get the day ostensibly off work. Hondo goes golfing with Lt. Velasquez, T.J. has a date, Boxer is sacked out in front of the TV (watching the original series), Deke is at the supermarket with his kids, and Street and Sanchez are at Sanchez's daughter's birthday party. However, they're still on call and end up getting paged to come in and deal with a "Polish hostage" who's randomly firing shotgun blasts out his front door.
- Note that this is not how the LAPD SWAT units work. The SWAT division in the LAPD Metro D-Platoon has 60 full-time officers who work on rotating shifts, thus removing the need to call in Hondo's team of six on their day off for a routine job and earn them overtime and recall to duty penalty pay rates. This break from reality is necessary to advance the plot.
- Punishment Detail: Street, after Gamble gets them kicked off the team. For a SWAT officer, being stuck in the gun cage, AKA handling the distribution and repair of weapons from other cops, may as well be Antarctica. He's even mocked as a "gun bunny" by other officers. Going by the care he puts into tuning up Hondo's rifle, and the work he must have put in creating the "Key To The City", he's apparently determined to prove that he can excel even under these circumstances.
- Rabid Cop: Gamble becomes one after he is kicked off the SWAT team, and then quits the police force altogether.
- Race Lift: In the series Hondo was played by Steve Forrest. In the film Forrest is the team's driver, and cameo's in a commercial where he plays the character. Hondo is instead played by Samuel L. Jackson, much the same as what happened with Nick Fury a few years later.
- Reality Ensues: Plays this straight more than other high-octane action films of its time:
- When the opening operation goes awry, Jim Street is demoted rather than being told to Turn in Your Badge.
- Montel is apprehended on a routine traffic stop of all things, where an ID check reveals his international fugitive status.
- When Montel hijacks a car in an escape attempt, he is immediately caught up in mid-day Los Angeles traffic and promptly crashes.
- When Gamble makes a getaway on a train, the officers catch up with it stopped and deserted down the line instead of turning into an obligatory Traintop Battle.
- Gamble wires some cars to explode to slow the SWAT team down, but it fails because he doesn't have line of sight on the explosives when he detonates them, which he does much too early.
- Montel tries to bribe the SWAT officers transporting him, pointing out that they risk their lives for subpar pay. Most laugh him off, but one indeed does free him explicitly for that reason.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Fuller throwing Gamble and Street off the SWAT unit, but not firing them, although he did need to be talked down into it by Velasquez. After all, police officers in big city police departments have to meet pretty tough criteria to even be considered for SWAT, and if accepted, they must undergo an extensive amount of extra training. Dumping someone from the force for a single (though highly visible and pretty severe) blunder is an incredible waste of resources. In addition, Street was doing the right thing, backing up his partner, and when Gamble (the one who actually shot the hostage) quits, Street's demotion/reassignment is much more palatable.
- Recursive Canon: One of the characters is watching the show on which the movie is based when he gets the call to mobilise, and the team sings the theme song when informed they have passed selection, clearly establishing that the TV show exists within the world of the movie. How is it, then, that no-one ever remarks on the fact that four of the members of the team have exactly the same names (and sometimes nicknames!) as characters from the show?
- Remake Cameo: Steve Forrest (Hondo on the TV series) appears as the driver of the SWAT transport, and the director, Clark Johnson, appears briefly (credited as "Deke's Handsome Partner").
- Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Montel showcases himself as one from the get-go by stabbing a member of his own family (who handles the L.A. branch of his criminal organization) in order to make an example to all other onlooking members of what happens to anybody who steals money from him. When he meets his lawyer, he asks who he can bribe for him to be let go (and when the lawyer says that that wouldn't work, Montel immediately asks who do they have to kill for him to be let go — his own emphasis, even). He offers a hundred million dollars to anybody who can release him and when he's told that this has turned L.A. into a war zone and gotten several police officers killed, he remains unapologetic and says:Montel: That's how I like cops. Dead.
- Samus Is a Girl: "Chris" Sanchez is introduced by the after-action report first as a patrol officer who beat the crap out of a Gang Banger during the arrest (both of them went to the hospital, her for a cut she'd taken from the Gang Banger's knife, him for looking like he'd been in a car accident). Hondo is very surprised to learn that Sanchez is a Spicy Latina a good foot-and-a-half shorter than him.Hondo: (walks in on Sanchez in her sports bra) Sorry, wrong room.
Sanchez: Who were you looking for?
Hondo: Chris Sanchez.
Sanchez: I'm Chris Sanchez.
Hondo: You're Chris Sanchez?
- Satellite Love Interest: Boxer's sister for Street. She doesn't even get a name, appears in all of one scene when she breaks up with him and moves out of their apartment, and after that only gets a couple of mentions: first Boxer tries to find out from Street "what an asshole like you did to my little sister to make her leave" (they nearly come to blows over it but Deeks stops Street), then way later Boxer says he thinks her new boyfriend is a knucklehead and that Street should call her.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Montels reaction to being told that he cannot get out of custody:Montel: Look, this is easy. Who do we have to pay?
Lawyer: You can't solve this problem by throwing money at it.
Montel: Then who do we have to kill?
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Deconstructed with Gamble. In the opening scene of the movie, we see him as a respected SWAT officer who disobeys his superior's orders to save a hostage from certain death at the hands of a bank robber. It's the kind of stunt that's practically always depicted heroically in action movies — except Gamble screws up and accidentally shoots the hostage, causing a PR nightmare for the police department, getting him kicked off the SWAT team, destroying his friendship with Street, and ultimately leading to his quitting the force altogether and descent into crime and vigilantism. All of the other characters fully acknowledge that he did the right thing morally, but the disastrous consequences show what can happen in Real Life when such a stunt backfires.Brian Gamble: Yeah, every cop in this department knows that we did the right thing.
Capt. Thomas Fuller: Sometimes, doing the right thing isn't doing the right thing.note
Sgt. Howard: What the hell does that mean?
- Semper Fi: Hondo did two tours in Vietnam and spent the next four teaching combat survival.
- Ship Tease: Just a bit between Sanchez and Street. He seems a bit overeager to go out drinking with her after they pass the SWAT test, and then she invites him over to her house.Sanchez: Just because I bought you a drink does not mean that you get laid tonight.
Street: So what does two drinks mean?
Sanchez: Do you want to come over to my house?
Street: Well, that was easy.
Sanchez: It's my kid's birthday party tomorrow.
- Shoot Out the Lock:
- In the opening bank robbery, Street is shown using a breaching shotgun to take out the lock on an air conditioning vent cover so that his team can infiltrate the bank through the roof.
- Subverted when the Big Bad locks a sewer exit the protagonists were chasing him through. The lock is obviously a high-end, very tough lock, and a couple of shots from an assault rifle barely dent it. They have to resort to blowing the entire grate off with a claymore.
- Shoot the Hostage: Gamble solves the opening hostage problem by shooting the hostage taker through the hostage's shoulder. (He was actually trying for a headshot on the hostage taker, but the target was moving.) Predictably, this does not sit well with his hierarchy (or the hostage, for that matter), leading to both him and his partner Jim Street being kicked off the team.
- Shoot the Hostage Taker: In the movie's Action Prologue Gamble attempts this but hits the hostage. She survives and sues the city, and Gamble and his partner Street are thrown off the S.W.A.T. team.
- Shown Their Work: The actors all went through actual LAPD SWAT training. Colin Farrell was also given LAPD Driver Training in the Ford Crown Victoria.
- Sanchez commenting about her desire to buy stocks in Kevlar is a real thing. DuPont, the manufacturer of Police Kevlar, gives stocks to Police officers who are shot in the line of duty, and saved by Kevlar. The program was initiated to get Police Officers to wear their issued armor, and has since been the source of many good Christmas's for Police Officer families.note
- Slashed Throat: Alex Montel inflicts this on his uncle Martin Gascoigne near the beginning of the film for stealing from The Syndicate.
- Spanner in the Works: Montel kills his uncle Martin Gascoigne for sticking his hand in their organization's till, then takes Gascoigne's car to the airport. On the way, he's pulled over by a motorcycle cop because he has a tail light out. The officer then discovers there's an arrest warrant linked to the license plate and detains Montel "until we can verify who you are." Lampshaded later by an FBI agent:"We've been lookin' for this guy a long time. Busted tail light brings him down? That's amazing."
- Spicy Latina/The Squadette: Chris Sanchez, played by Michelle Rodriguez, is a working-class Latina beat cop with several beefs—actually just Gang Bangers and the like who were embarrassed at getting taken down by a woman—when Hondo recruits her onto his SWAT Team. She easily keeps pace with her male teammates, and her smaller size proves useful during the SWAT graduation test, as she can enter a hatchway the men won't fit through.
- Stay in the Kitchen: That Sanchez is a woman seems to be the main reason why Fuller has rejected her SWAT applications.
- Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: The team's first case after passing the SWAT test is to deal with a "Polish hostage".Deeks: So what if he's Polish?
Hondo: Naw, it means he's one of those "anybody comes in, I blow my head off" type guys.
- SWAT Team: Since it's based on the series, of course.
- Tagline: "Even cops dial 911."
- Training Montage: Hondo's crew going through his SWAT boot camp. We also see Street jogging on the beach... until he throws up. Then he goes right back to running.
- Turn in Your Badge: Averted, partially. First, Street and Gamble's commander convinces Captain Fuller not to remove them from the LAPD entirely; both are promptly assigned to work in the gun cage. Gamble blows up and quits the force altogether, while Street accepts the demotion calmly, but won't sell his partner out to get back on the team.
- Wicked Cultured: The tipoff to the identity of The Mole is that, while the other officers take their leisure playing with their children or drinking beer and watching TV, he spends it drinking champagne in a restaurant with a sommelier.