S.W.A.T.
2003. Rated PG-13. Director: Clark Johnson. Renner plays Brian Gamble, the former partner of Colin Farrell's character

Gamble hijacks a LearJet

A motley crew of Los Angeles police officers have to make their way through a gauntlet of mercenaries while transporting a dangerous criminal to prison. You can guess what sort of movie this will be from the following facts: their leader is played by Samuel L. Jackson, the team includes a cop played by LL Cool J, and the nefarious criminal is a Frenchman. I'm sorry to say that it is not bad enough to be good. There are various poorly-executed plot elements, but the closest thing to a theme is the good cop/bad cop contrast between Colin Farrell's character and his ex-partner, played by Renner. I guess we're supposed to root for Farrell, but he is so goddamn boring that it is impossible. An attempt to give him some depth with an early breakup scene completely fails because a) he is obviously the one who's lost interest in the relationship, not the girlfriend and b) we never find out why. Some later hints of romance with Michelle Rodriguez's character are also abandoned before anything interesting happens.

Renner is way more entertaining to watch, but his character makes no sense unless you believe that hot-heads who occasionally bend the rules are automatically evil and on their way to perdition. Perhaps my problem with the progression of events is due to all the morally gray protagonists I've seen in movies and on TV in the past few years; S.W.A.T. may reflect the absolutism of an earlier time that just reads as unbelievable now. *shrug* In any case, his badness in the later parts of the movie is over the top and kind of amusing, but it all ends with a bit of whimper.

There are a couple of interesting comments on racial issues in the movie, my favorite being Octavia Spencer's by-stander telling Samuel L. Jackson's character that he ought to have better things to do than arrest other black men. And a couple actors from The Wire make welcome appearances. But alas, the most amusing thing about this film is the fact that there is a song on the soundtrack named "Samuel Jackson". Now that there is some metacommentary!



A Little Trip to Heaven
2005. Rated R. Director: Baltasar Kormákur. Renner plays Fred/Kelvin, a small-time crook attempting life insurance fraud.

Leaving is not allowed

An insurance claims adjuster visits a small town in Minnesota to investigate a deadly car crash and becomes enmeshed in a criminal plot. It's revealed within minutes that Renner's character is a very bad man and Forest Whitaker's purpose in the movie is to get to the bottom of his scheme. So most of the running time is spent watching Whitaker's character bumbling around with inexplicably fogged glasses, questioning Renner's wife (played by Julia Stiles) and various other rustic folk in his efforts to uncover a lot of needlessly complicated and implausible backstory. And he does it in a bizarre high-pitched voice with an accent that veers between Scotland, Minnesota, New York, and Jamaica. As if that weren't enough, the landscape is subtly wrong for the setting; I kept wondering if this was supposed to be some kind of surrealistic psychodrama. But no... it was just filmed in Iceland! Of course! …?!

Renner plays a pretty generic bad guy in this movie and sports some unappealing facial hair for most of it. Even though I was highly amused by him exclaiming near the end, “Well, looks like I'm pretty fucked!” I must advise giving this one a pass unless you feel like lobbing MST3K-style commentary at the screen.