FREEDOMLAND: FREEDOMLAND: Richard Price's novel FREEDOMLAND is brought to life in this 2006 adaptation. A carjacking-turned-kidnapping provides the set-up for a complex story of racial and class divisions, as black detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to uncover the truth in victim Brenda Martin's story. Bleeding and dazed in an inner city ER, Brenda (Julianne Moore) explains that on her way home from work in the projects of fictional Dempsey, New Jersey, a black man assaulted her and stole her car. Matters are intensified when it's revealed that her four-year-old son was asleep in the backseat.
Novelist Price (CLOCKERS), who also wrote the screenplay, has never shied away from the blunt realities and moral ambiguities of the contemporary urban experience. Though Price's vision is often unrelentingly bleak and his characters far from saintly, there's a weary hopefulness that sustains them throughout. Stars Jackson and Moore turn in performances as incendiary as the film's subject, and the excellent supporting cast (Edie Falco and Anthony Mackie, among them) tackles these complex characters with both nuance and fire. Director Joe Roth (CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS) is given the monumental task of bringing Price's epic to the screen, and his visual approach works well--all cinematic chiaroscuro and icy hues. Still, Price's themes of racial and class tension are rough, murky waters and require both a bold vision and a deft touch. As much as Roth is clearly passionate about the task at hand--setting an emotional fever pitch from the word go--the hopeful resolution he desires is not so easily attained, if attainable at all. FREEDOMLAND is a tough one, and although flawed, in the end, it's an emotionally complex, politically provocative film well worth viewing.
S.W.A.T.: Television director/actor Clark Johnson makes an impressive feature-film debut with S.W.A.T. Inspired by the 1970s show of the same name, S.W.A.T. is set in modern-day Los Angeles. Recently demoted officer Jim Street (Colin Farrell) gets a chance to redeem himself when an aging veteran, Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson), is put in control of a new team. Joining Jim are Deke Kay (LL Cool J), Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt), T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles), and Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), all outcasts in their own right. But after an intense training period, the team is ready to hit the streets. Their first big assignment involves one of the world's most dangerous criminals, Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez), who makes an on-camera declaration that he'll give $100 million to whoever breaks him out of jail. Pretty soon, everyone's trying to get a piece of the action, including Jim's former partner, Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner), who uses his own S.W.A.T. team experience to plot the escape of a lifetime. It's up to Hondo and Jim to outsmart the bad guys and make sure that Alex is safely transported to a federal penitentiary. S.W.A.T. is an entertaining adventure made all the more engaging because of the way Johnson concerns himself equally with the quality of the film's drama and its action.