The Biggest Logic Hole in the History of Cinema
I wish it didn’t have to be like this. Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with Clark Johnson’s S.W.A.T. (2003); it’s a relatively diverting LAPD action thriller with a surprisingly solid, “in-their-prime,” cast.* Under different circumstances, producer Neal H. Moritz’s 2 Fast 2 Furious follow-up could be remembered for any number of things. It could be remembered for the cracker jack airplane paintball training sequence, or for LL Cool J’s preposterous abdominal muscles, or perhaps even for Gamble, Jeremy Renner’s emo ex-S.W.A.T. villain, who definitely looks like this:
But that would be under different circumstances. As things are, all of the positive aspects of the fourth of five (!) Colin Farrell movies released in 2003 are overshadowed by the fact that this film contains the single most inexplicable logic hole in the history of movies.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t remember those parts of the movie that are supposedly ‘overshadowed’ by that other part of the movie that I don’t remember.” And you’d be right, because you don’t care about S.W.A.T., no one does.
But you’re about to.
Part One: The Theme Song
S.W.A.T was not the first time that a television show was adapted into a feature film. In fact, without doing any research, I’d venture to guess that S.W.A.T. isn’t even the second or third time this happened. And when a television show is adapted for the big screen, it is commonplace to include some kind of winking, self aware, moment that lets the audience know that the filmmakers are aware that the story they are telling is derived from a different story that was previously told on a different medium. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson sharing a scene with the actors who played the original Starsky and Hutch in Starsky and Hutch (2004) comes to mind, or the “does she always look like she’s in slow-motion?” joke from the trailer for Baywatch (2017). There are many more examples, but since those are the only ones that immediately came to mind, they must be the best.
Considering that long, proud tradition, it isn’t unreasonable that the people behind S.W.A.T. wanted to throw in a reference or two to the ol’ TV show. In fact, the fans would expect no less! And the references begin subtly enough, with the famous theme song from the show, originally composed by Barry De Vorzon, woven into the fabric of the score of the film, composed by Elliot Goldenthal. This is great, a nice little nod to the TV show that instantly evokes jaunty 70’s police fun without being too on-the-nose or distracting. Plus, since the characters in movies cannot hear the score music, having the original theme song present there doesn’t create any irreparable tears in the foundational logic of the world of the movie.
So far, so good. But then…
Midway through the movie, after successfully passing the aforementioned airplane paintball trial and officially becoming a S.W.A.T. unit, our heroes go out for a celebratory BBQ dinner. They laugh, drink, ogle Ladies Love Cool James’ abs, listen to a somber speech by Sam Jackson about the unacceptability of dying, and then begin singing the theme song from S.W.A.T. the TV show. All of them. In unison.
At first blush this may not seem like an issue. After all, the S.W.A.T. theme song is simple and catchy. Real-life S.W.A.T. teams probably sing it all the time, like how pilots are constantly humming the Wings theme, and you can’t walk past a fire station without hearing some firefighter jamming out Third Watch on an electric keyboard. The issue comes with the realization that this particular S.W.A.T. team is in a movie directly based on the TV show that this song originates from, sharing their names and characteristics with the characters from said show. If the TV show existed in the world of the movie, and they all know it well enough to spontaneously break out singing the theme, surely by now one or more of them would have had the existential meltdown that comes with noticing that you and your friends have the exact same names as a fictional S.W.A.T. team from a thirty year old television show. Surely.
But maybe not.
While this seems like a fairly egregious oversight, it isn’t completely damning, and, with a little bit of “deleted scene hypothesizing,” can be explained away. Perhaps in the world of S.W.A.T., that catchy theme song did not originate with Mr. De Vorzon and the Aaron Spelling-produced show, which of course couldn’t exist, but rather with our heroes themselves, composed at some point in the course of the narrative and adopted as a personal pump-up jam. As far as I know, such a scene does not exist, but easily could, and would make an excellent addition to one of the films myriad training montages:
For this theory to hold water, one needs to assume that Oscar-nominated composer Marc Shaiman would be friends with Samuel L. Jackson’s Sgt. Dan “Hondo” Harrelson, but Shaiman seems very likable, so I buy it.
Whew, that was close. Clark Johnson, screenwriter David Ayer, and company, almost obliterated the reality of their film for a tossed-off joke, but with a little creative thinking on the part of the audience, the movie can continue on, unabated. All they need to do now is avoid making any more references to…
Part Two: The Actual Goddamn Show
… oh come on.
Mere minutes after the movie’s first flirtation with smashing through the fourth wall like the Kool-Aid Man, we find our heroes enjoying a much-deserved day off.
Sgt. Hondo and Lt. Velasquez (Reg E. Cathy) are putting in some time on the links…
… while Deacon takes his kids shopping…
… TJ (Josh Charles) has a predictably douchey (lunch?) date at a French restaurant…
… Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) tests Street’s step-dad potential with a backyard water gun fight…
… and Boxer (Brian Van Holt) shirks his household chores…
… while kicking back on the couch with a lukewarm Dr. Pepper…
… and blithely watching everything he thought he knew about the universe be thrown into utter chaos.
Well, shit. So much for the airtight “personal team theme song composed for them by Oscar-nominated composer Marc Shaiman” theory. This scene confirms it: the TV show S.W.A.T., a spin-off of The Rookies that aired from 1975–1976, exists in the world of the movie. The reason everyone was able to sing the theme song during that scene in the BBQ restaurant is because they are all aware (and presumably fans) of the TV show, S.W.A.T. , which, again, exists.
How is it possible, in light of this new information, that every single last goddamn fucking scene in this movie doesn’t play out like so:
It just doesn’t make sense! All things considered, the movie S.W.A.T. should be about regular blue collar cops who, after bearing witness to a glitch in the space-time continuum, slowly lose their minds as they become feverishly obsessed with figuring out how this is possible and if they can fix this broken reality. Not one drug lord should be apprehended from a flaming private jet, not one beach dramatically ran upon by a dripping-wet Colin Farrell. Who has time for that kinda crap in the midst of their psyche slowly cracking into a million pieces? S.W.A.T. should essentially be the same movie as Jake Gyllenhaal’s Enemy, but with significantly more hair gel and leather cuffs; there’s no reason it doesn’t end with every character either dead, in an institution, or facing down a spider the size of a bus.
Part Three: Theories
Honestly, the time for excuses is over. The stretch that was necessary to explain away the theme song gaffe was just barely short enough that I was willing to make it. This, however, is a bridge too far. By including a clip from the actual show, S.W.A.T. earned itself the dubious honor of having The Biggest Logic Hole In The History Of Cinema, full-stop.
However, in blatant defiance of the sentence immediately preceding this one, I am not going to stop, but rather press forward, with a collection of theories that attempt to bring sense to the nonsensical, and fill The Biggest Logic Hole In The History Of Cinema.
Each theory will be followed by points both for, and against.
Theory 1: The characters in the movie all love S.W.A.T. so much that they legally changed their names to those of the characters on the show.
- Ok, maybe? But since none of the characters know each other at the beginning of the film, that means they all did this very weird thing independent of each other, and just coincidentally all picked different characters. Then to top it off, they were all recruited for the job that the fictional character that they named themselves after also had, and in the same unit, no less. And then they never spoke about it.
- Actually, no. For the one, the probability of that happening is infinitesimal, and for two we know from the movie that Hondo didn’t recruit people based on their names, he recruited them based on their willingness to beat the hell out of suspects, and enjoy “good old fashioned American hot dogs.” Plus, if it was some pro-level “The Secret” shit, they would go on about it non-fucking-stop and they’d be on, like, The Talk, if that’s still a show.
Theory 2: It’s the holodeck, from Star Trek
- “Whoa, these theories sure went off the rails quick, didn’t they?” Why yes, they did. The theories went off the rails with a quickness that is in direct proportion to the insanity of the hole.
- S.W.A.T. officer Michael Boxer (the grinning layabout we see watching S.W.A.T. on his couch) is actually Lt. Mike Boxer, a security officer on a Galaxy Class starship that isn’t the Enterprise, I don’t know their names, but one of the other ones. Since nothing ever fucking happens out in space (remember, not the Enterprise), Lt. Boxer stares wistfully out at the stars, lost in nostalgic reveres about the good ol’ days of cops and international drug kingpins, until he remembers that there is a holodeck and he can just go and do the damn thing. So, not unlike Capt. Picard and his 40s private eye fantasies, Lt. Boxer wiles away the hours in his program set in 2003 Los Angeles, because really, was there ever a better place and moment in American history?
- I’m still thinkin’ no. If this is Boxer’s program, which is assumed because he’s the one who is unequivocally aware of the show, why is he not the lead? Hell, he isn’t even on the poster! Who writes themselves into something as a supporting character who gets shot and has to sit out the entire climax of the story? Unless this is some sort of reverse- Lt. Barclay situation, where in real life Boxer is the cock of the walk and his secret fantasy is to be background bullet fodder… I don’t know. I’ll chalk this one up as a “possible.”
(You: “Wait, the author snarkily implies that, like all cool people, he knows the bare-minimum necessary about Star Trek, but then invokes occasional guest character Lt. Barclay as a reference? Just how much does he actually know about Star Trek: The Next Generation? Is he secretly a big The Talk fan as well?” Me: “Fuck you, that’s how much.”)
Theory 3: Michael Boxer is a bored immortal and/or interdimensional being
- This theory is similar to the holodeck theory, but with a less proprietary mythology. Basically, Boxer is an ancient, and possibly interdimensional, being who loved the television show S.W.A.T. so much that he decided his late-20th century game would be organically recreating the program, with real people and real situations. He Marty McFly-ed all of the heroes’ parents (“You know a name I’ve always liked? Hondo...”) then took up some sort of mentorship role during their youths (a teacher, coach, surprisingly wise vagrant, etc) to subtly nudge them in the direction of law enforcement. Boxer has had millennia of practice with human Rube Goldberg puzzles like this, so he’s really fucking good at it and it works like a charm.
- “If he was an influential part of their young adulthoods, why doesn’t anyone recognize him as such?” Easy, the mustache. Next.
- “Why does he allow himself to be shot at the end of the second act?” Because he needs to take himself out of the situation in order for his little baby birds to fly on their own. Next.
- “What about the continued existence of the show? And knowledge of the theme song?” In his capacity as wise vagrant, he indoctrinated his pupils with the idea that television is evil and should be avoided at all costs. As for the song? Welcome back to the game, Clay’s Perfect Marc Shaiman Theory From Earlier!
- Holy shit, you guys. I think we did it. We patched the biggest logic hole in the history of cinema. Congrats, Brian Van Holt! Here you’ve been for the last fifteen years thinking you played seventh banana in a moderately successful PG-13 franchise non-starter, when you were actually playing omniscient god-like banana in a moderately successful PG-13 franchise non-starter. I’m glad we were able to do you this service. You can now be at peace.
Part Four: What Come Next?
As you are no doubt already aware, the S.W.A.T. legacy is far from concluded. A new version of the series, from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan and Fast Five director Justin Lin, is premiering this fall on CBS. Oddly, it is an adaptation of both the TV show and the movie, since it incorporates the Chris Sanchez character that was originated by Michelle Rodriguez in the film.
This begs the question, will ageless interdimensional trickster god Michael Boxer also appear in the new series? According to imdb it would seem that he does not show up in the pilot, but that doesn’t mean much. Scripts can be rewritten. Pilots can be re-shot. Just imagine the narrative possibilities of adding a TV-obsessed, all-powerful, immortal character to a gritty LA police / social drama. I’m not saying that it will be better, because that is obvious, and I am not in the habit of redundantly pointing out the obvious.
Do with this information what you will, Shawn Ryan. I know you’ll make the correct choice.
*S.W.A.T. is actually a pretty damn good time. Underrated. Check it out.