SWAT (China 2019) - Movie Review

It’s Big, It’s Loud, It’s Noisy. This is SWAT, the 2019 Chinese action film from director Ding Sheng.
Director Ding Sheng
Starring Jia Nailiang, Gina Chen Jin, Leon Zhang, Xiaosu Ling
Alternative Names Te Jing Dui, 特警队

It’s Big, It’s Loud, It’s Noisy.

This is SWAT, the 2019 Chinese action film from director Ding Sheng, known for his previous action movies including A Better Tomorrow 2018 and Police Story Lockdown.

In a time when Chinese filmmakers are looking to tell stories of their armed forces, this movie focuses on the best of the best in the Chinese Police Force the SWAT team. Highly trained, cool under pressure. It’s the perfect mix for an action film.

With its massive and impressive marketing campaign and its clever use of SWAT as its title, the viewer is promised an action packed ride.

What's this Movie About?

Two rival SWAT teams within the Police Force spend most of their days in high pressure training drills in between call out. In the first real life incident shown, the SWAT teams assemble to take down a man high on drugs who is holding a school girl by knifepoint in the subway. One shot from the sniper, played by TV actor Nailiang Jia, and the hostage situation is over.

While debriefing the incident, the chief in command and commissioner uncover a link from the dead man to a batch of highly addictive drugs similar to Crystal Meth.

The kingpin responsible for this drug, played by Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, has just arrived in Beijing to arrange a meeting with the local drug lord distributing his product. He is concerned about his declining profits and the rise of a counterfeit drug of the same type.

After the two SWAT teams perform an operation where they arrest most of the low level street dealers, they receive intel about an island where the counterfeit drugs are being manufactured.

The Chief realises he needs to create an elite squad to take them down picking six of the best from the two SWAT teams, plus one of the female operatives, and together, they infiltrate the island and take out drug gang.

As far as action movies go, it’s a pretty standard storyline

Is it Worth Watching?

This is tricky, because unless you can understand or read Chinese, there isn’t an English Subtitled version of this movie available yet. We watched this streaming app Youku, and if you’re lucky enough to be watching with someone who can speak Chinese, or you can understand the basics, following the story is pretty simple.

Being an action movie, its not something that will make you think too deeply, so you’ll be safe.

If you are just wanting this for the action however, you may be slightly disinterested in the first half of the movie as we are shown their training and operation drills. There is also some friendly rivalry between the two SWAT teams that will be lost on non-Chinese speakers, but you get the idea if you’ve seen plenty of action movies before.

Fans of video games should really like the first-person gun sections in the movie – they aren’t overdone, and add another element to the genre.

What are Some of the Memorable Moments?

The final sequence with the explosion of the hideout/manufacturing den is impressive, but if you watch out video on SWAT’s visual effects, you’ll see the entire thing was done via CGI.

The more memorable scenes occur at the beginning of the film: the sniper shot it the subway, the anti-terrorist training drill on the commercial airliner and the sniper training scenes that share a little nod to William Tell.

Sharing a nod to something else is the interrogation scene when the police mention Sam’s previous arrest for prison break – which was a nice little reference to actor Robert Knepper’s long running role in the US TV show Prison Break as the character T-Bag. Good thing is that this scene is in English.

And speaking of the police speaking English, and something I found kind of awesome, was that one of the officers spoke fluent English – with a very strong Australian accent.

For the ladies in the audience, you might be interested in the rather long shower sequence at the beginning featuring all our muscly heroes.

As with all these types of movies, the end credits features a montage of real life SWAT footage that’s exciting to look at.

What's Not So Hot?

While the action scene at the end is quite exciting, its also a little confusing. Things blow up here, people get shot there, but the flow just isn’t right. It’s a valiant attempt, but perhaps a little too ambitious of the crew who ended up relying far too much on CGI and less on practical effects.

Those sensitive to stereotypes might also find a few scenes in the movie mildly problematic, but China have had the rough end of the stick for the last few decades as a frequent target for Western movies baddies.

Overall Impressions

Of all the movies the Chinese have made about their servicemen, this isn’t the best but its not the worst either – that mantle belongs to The Bravest.

As far as big dumb action goes, this one is right up there if you’re only considering the second half of the movie, otherwise it falls back in the action movie pack.

It was always going to be a popcorn flick, and that’s the best way to approach this. Watch it if you see it available.