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"S.W.A.T." (2003)

"S.W.A.T." (2003)

Directed by Clark Johnson
Screenplay by David Ayer and David McKenna
Story by Ron Mita and Jim McClain

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Jeremy Renner, Brian Van Holt, James DuMont

MPAA Rating: PG-13
U.S. Box Office: $116,877,597
Production budget: $80,000,000

A running subplot in the beginning of 2003 feature film "S.W.A.T." involves a Latter-day Saint police officer named Gus, who is in charge of the equipment cage. The lead character (played by Colin Farrell) is re-assigned from a field S.W.A.T. agent to work for a time in the equipment cage, where he is Gus's partner. Farrell teases Gus in a good-natured way as Gus struggles with temptation to eat junk food, which he claims is against his religious beliefs.

First scene with Gus, Colin Farrell's Latter-day Saint co-worker

[14 minutes into the movie, the main character "Jim Street" (actor Collin Farrell) is shown for the first in his new, demoted position as an officer in the S.W.A.T. division's gun cage.]

[Street was previously an officer on the elite Los Angeles S.W.A.T. force, but was demoted and moved off of active duty in the field during the first act of the movie. He was removed from field duty after he was forced to follow his partner ("Gamble") when his partner moved into a bank where hostages were being held, in direct violation of their commander's orders. As a result of Gamble's actions, Gamble and Street were able to rescue all of the hostages, but Gamble shot one of the hostages, who survived threatened to sue the police department. Although Street had actually done nothing wrong, he refused to "give up" his partner and write up a statement blaming his partner for everything that happened.]

Now, in the gun cage, Street (Colin Farrell) is sitting at the counter, filling out paper work. His partner in the gun cage is "Gus" (actor James DuMont), a shorter, balding, slightly heavyset man. Gus walks up from behind Street, drinking a can of Dr Pepper and vocalizing "Hmm... mmm," signifying his satisfaction at the flavor and thirst-quenching properties of the beverage. Gus then places the Dr Pepper can (now audibly empty or nearly empty) on the counter next to Street.

Street (Colin Farrell): You're a little too attached to that soda, Gus.

Gus (James DuMont): Love that stuff!... The wife would have my behind if she busted me suckin' that down.

Street (Colin Farrell): Why, is she a Mr. Pibb fan? [referring to a different soda beverage which is in a niche similar to Dr Pepper]

Gus (James DuMont): You know the deal, Jim... When we got married I converted to Mormonism. We can't consume anything that alters our state of mind... We treat our bodies with respect.

Street (Colin Farrell): An I treat mine like an amusement park... It's the differences that make this country great.

["Boxer," a S.W.A.T. officer, comes to the cage and drops off a pair of boots.]

Boxer: Need them cleaned by the morning, boys.

Gus (James DuMont): You were supposed to have your gear in a half-hour ago. [The subitles read slightly differently, perhaps reflecting how the line was written in the original script: "You were supposed to have it in a half-hour ago."]

Boxer: What, your boy gonna report me to the captain?

Street (Colin Farrell): Just for thinking you look good in that mustache.

Boxer: [chuckles slightly] Your mom seemed to like it, though.

Street (Colin Farrell): So does your sister.

["Hondo" (actor Samuel L. Jackson) walks into the S.W.A.T. equipment/vehicle area. Originally he is seen only from the waist down.]

Unseen S.W.A.T. officer: Hey, Sarge, welcome back.

Unseen S.W.A.T. officer: Look who's back.

Unnamed S.W.A.T. officer: Welcome back, Sarge.

Unseen S.W.A.T. officer: What's up, Hondo?

Unseen S.W.A.T. officer: Hey, Sarge.

["Hondo" walks up to the gun cage. His upper body and face is now revealed: Samuel L. Jackson is seen for the first time in the movie. He sees "Street" doing paperwork in the gun cage.]

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): Howdy

Street (Colin Farrell): What do you need?

[Gus walks up to the counter, smiling broadly.]

Gus (James DuMont): Sgt. Hondo? You're back.

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): Well, you know what they say, Gus. You're either SWAT or you're not.

Gus (James DuMont): [eagerly] Yes, sir. What can I do for you?

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): Oh, just a tune-up.

[Street receives the gun from Hondo.]

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): [addressing Street] But please, don't touch my sights... And I made some modifications--

Street (Colin Farrell): --to the trigger too.

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): And you are?

Street (Colin Farrell): Jim Street. [nods his head slightly]

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): Street. [Smiles, and nods his head.]

Street (Colin Farrell): [Continuing to examine Hondo's gun.] Yeah, we'll leave them intact.

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): I need that back by tomorrow.

Gus (James DuMont): Can do, Sergeant.

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): [to Gus] Good to see you.

Gus (James DuMont): Good seeing you.

[Hondo smiles at Street one last time and walks away.]

[Street puts the gun down on the counter and turns to Gus.]

Street (Colin Farrell): [looking down at Gus's crotch] Gosh, Gus... Is that a woody? [Street here jokingly implies that Gus is overly excited to meet the legendary Hondo.]

Gus (James DuMont): [Following Street's gaze, quickly looks downward, then back at Street.] Heck, yeah. That's Hondo. He's old-school SWAT... The gold standard of ass-kicking... Sorry, butt-kicking.

[Rather than rebuff Street's vulgar but good-natured barb, Gus simply acknowledges his professional admiration of Hondo.]

Gus (James DuMont): I guess he's back.

Street (Collin Farrell): I guess he is.

[End of the scene with with Gus and Street in the gun cage. The next scene features Hondo and fellow S.W.A.T. leader Valesquez in the administrative offices.]

[Note how in this scene Gus pointedly used the word "heck" instead of "hell," and "behind" instead of "ass," once even correcting himself after using the word "ass." That more common word (and the word used by the other characters in the movie) is the word that Gus previously used before his conversion to the Church and assimilation of Latter-day Saint teachings to refrain from vulgar and profane langauge -- presumably as taught to him by his wife. Precisely which words (if any) are actually "sinful" to utter according to official Church doctrine is beside the point here.

The character, a new convert, demonstrates in this scene a sincere desire to follow the tenants of his new faith, as he understands them, even while not around his wife. On the other hand, he sneaks a drink of Dr Pepper, which his wife understands to be against the Word of Wisdom, even there is no such official proscription. Based on how the scene is played, it is possible that Gus is indulging in a slight "guilty pleasure," but it is also possible that he is quite aware that abstaining from Dr Pepper is merely his wife's preference, and not really an official prohibition.

Gus's attitude here and elsewhere in the movie suggests that although is is not an intense "zealot," his conversion to Mormonism is sincere and not merely a perfunctory or nominal conversion done to satisfy his wife. Note his brief and positive discussion of doctrine with his co-worker, and his use of the word "we" when speaking of Latter-day Saints.]

Audio Commentary
The DVD release of "S.W.A.T." features two audio commentaries, one by director Clark Johnson and the other by the writers and other technical crew.

In the scene which introduces Gus's character, right after the line about Gus converting to Mormonism, director Clark Johnson says in his commentary track:

And that's the beauty of a summer action movie. You know, you learn a little about other cultures... the Mormon culture. Come to the action movies in the Summer. You'll learn about religion.

It was made clear to me, made very clear to me that this was a tentpole movie for the summer. I mean, this is interesting because we're having this conversation in hindsight... err... without the benefit of hindsight, because the movie hasn't come out yet. But, yeah, we are expecting the movie to do really well. We're hoping that you're watching it on DVD for the third time... Sam Jackson is just the coolest man in America. There's just no doubt...

Second scene with Gus, Colin Farrell's Latter-day Saint co-worker

[18 minutes, 55 seconds into the movie. This scene takes place in the gun cage area, but in the equipment storage area rather than at the front check-in/check-out counter. The scene opens on Gus, kicking a large cylindrical piece of metal with things attached to it. Gus complains about the thing, and Street walks in, and proceeds to show him his "invention." Street calls it the "Key to the City." It has a harpoon-like device inside which can be fired into a wall. Rods then shoot out and secure the harpoon to a wall. The wall can then be pulled down quickly by a vehicle secured to the device. Street envisions using it in hostage situations where S.W.A.T. officers need to quickly gain access to a building. While Street is explaining the device to Gus, Hondo walks in and listens to the conversation, silently admiring Street's inventiveness and initiative. Hondo joins the conversation at the end, and then picks up his tuned-up gun from Street. Gus mostly just smiles and nods during all of this, but says little.

Third scene with Gus, Colin Farrell's Latter-day Saint co-worker

[Gus is eating a McDonald's meal of a burger and fries, while sitting at the counter in the gun cage. Street walks up to him.]

Street (Colin Farrell): Hey, Gus!

Gus (James DuMont): Yeah.

Street (Colin Farrell): Isn't that eternal damnation you're chowing down there?

Gus (James DuMont): You can't tell Michelle.

Street (Colin Farrell): Isn't she gonna smell the fries on your breath?

Gus (James DuMont): [Considers this briefly, looking up from his meal.] That's why God invented mouthwash. She'll never know.

Street (Colin Farrell): Gus, you're cheating on your wife with fast food.

Gus (James DuMont): You're right! You're absolutely right. [Pushes the food away.]

[Hondo walks up the cage]

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): Street, you have driver's license?

Street (Colin Farrell): Got a library card.

Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson): That's good enough. So get your uniform on. You're driving me today. Come on.

Writer's commentary
The second audio commentary, done by writers and other crew members, includes the following comments by one of the writers:
I wrote it... I just wanted to make a little bit, life, a little bit more difficult on, uh, Street... And I wanted to try and create some comedic moments between them for Street to kind of, uh, to understand that he's in two different worlds right now. He's in a world of listening to this Mormon guy, and then he's getting ready to enter a world of World War II. We tried to commit, we tried to kind of create a World War III at the very end. In some respects, it's more like a Vietnam War than World War III, in the streets of Los Angeles.

Later, in the writer's commentary, beginning at 1 hour and 2 minutes into the movie, the S.W.A.T. team is confronting the "Polish hostage" situation. "Polish hostage" is an actual S.W.A.T. term used to describe a man who has no other hostages, but holds a gun to his own head and threatens to kill himself if the police approach him. The writers say:
[First writer:] What, what is this? Is this, uh...

[Second writer:] It's the Polish hostage.

[First writer:] No. But what, what music? Is that rap?

[Second writer:] Sounds like Metallica or something... Some skateboard thrasher music.

[The writers briefly stop talking and listen to Samuel L. Jackson's line of dialogue, referring to the crazy man the S.W.A.T. team just apprehended:] I think he might be Polish.

[First writer:] Oh, they're gonna get, they're gonna get letters... And they're going to send them to you. [Here he suggests that the movie studio will get angry letters from Polish people about the line.]

[Second writer:] No, I brought the Mormons and the Polish. I don't have anything against ya.

[Third writer:] Just gotta be equal opportunity, that's all.

[First writer:] That's okay, we're trashing the French now. [The scene now showing is when police use Interpol databases to identify the true identity of the foreign national they have just taken into custody on a traffic violation: Alex, the French character who is the movie's main bad guy.]

[Third writer:] Trashing the French... Gotta do that.

"S.W.A.T." (2003)
Initial Closing Credits:

Directed by Clark Johnson
Screenplay by David Ayer and David McKenna
Story by Ron Mita and Jim McClain
Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Dan Halsted, Chris Lee
Executive Producer: Louis D'Esposito
Co-Executive Producer: Todd Black
Director of Photography: Gabriel Beristain, ASC/BSC
Webpage created 4 January 2004. Last modified 7 February 2005.