Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and his partner Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) belong to the elite and highly trained Special Weapons And Tactics unit involved in a tense hostage-taking incident on a Los Angeles street corner. The volatile situation escalates when Gamble disobeys a hold order. The action puts the two men under fire. Duly punished by their superior (Larry Poindexter), Gamble throws in his badge, but Street accepts an offer to atone for the deed by polishing boots and cleaning weapons in the gunnery.
However, the insubordinate special teams officer isn't the only problem the LAPD faces. A string of bad press releases has the department scrambling to improve its image.
Looking for help from their senior personnel, former S.W.A.T. member Lt. Dan 'Hondo' Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) is called in to put together a new squad of top officers. Handpicking candidates McCabe (Josh Charles), Boxer (Brian Van Holt), Kay (LL Cool J) and Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), Hondo gives Street the opportunity to fill the last spot on the roster.
Their hours of grueling physical training pay off when the recruits are summoned to take charge of Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), a foreign drug lord who falls into the hands of the city police department. But the newly formed group's assignment to safely transfer the prisoner to a federal penitentiary is complicated when the nightly news broadcasts Montel's offer of $100 million to whoever frees him from custody.
Suddenly the transport team's strategic moves are assaulted by seemingly every criminal element in the country. The result is downed officers, demolished squad cars and bullet-riddled buildings on a city street that looks more like a war zone.
Like Charlie's Angels before it, this film is based on characters from an earlier T.V. show. Running for only two seasons, the police drama from the 1970s was probably best known for its theme song, which shows up again, in a reworked fashion, for the movie.
While S.W.A.T. offers an edge-of-your-seat storyline, it's the constant barrage of automatic gunfire, brutal fistfights, fireball explosions, and spilled blood that push the good graces of a PG-13 rating. In addition to the physical violence depicted for much of the screen time, parents may find the calloused attitudes of criminals disturbing. Human life is indifferently disposed of, including that of family members or partners.
An onslaught of profanities, some sexual innuendo and crass remarks exchanged between characters also fails to endear this otherwise action packed operation to family audiences.