John T. Griffith 5:14 p.m., May 22
Review: Act of Valor
DISCLAIMER: No Navy SEALs were harmed during the making of this picture.
The Navy granted “filmmakers” Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh permission to play with their toys and the result is a gung-ho recruitment film that’s as incompetently acted and slapped together as it is propagandistic.
A team of SEALs undertake a covert mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent/damsel in distress. (The story is simplicity personified, so as not to challenge the audience.) The directors are swift to differentiate between right and wrong. Shackled girl operative, good; foreigner putting a drill through her hand, bad.
The opening scene, detailing the assassination of an ambassador, sets the tone of imbecility that’s to follow. A sorbet truck pulls into a local schoolyard just as the final bell sounds. The ambassador picks up his son and right before they get into the car, the boy begs dad for a frozen treat. Did the bad guys know in advance the kid would insist on ice cream? If the two drove off, would the thugs have kept showing up every day until the kid cried for a treat? What am I saying? This is a film that cares more about condoning combat than it does narrative cohesion.
All of the stunts are performed by active duty Navy SEALs. As actors, these boys make top-notch stuntmen. Who wants to watch a film populated by a bunch of Hal Needhams? The only legitimate actor whose face rang a bell was Nestor Serrano (The Day After Tomorrow, Secretariat), and they kill him off 10 minutes into the picture.
We are offered a rare glimpse of a combatant's softer side. The government-sanctioned killing machine confides, “The only thing better than going to war is being a dad.” If Ralphie’s pop in A Christmas Story gave his kid a Daisy rifle, one can only imagine the arsenal papa SEAL left under the tree for his pup.
One of the films major selling points is the filmmakers’ use of live ammo for some of the more intense action sequences. I’m all for verisimilitude, but when the performances are this cardboard, rubber bullets would hardly have distracted from the proceedings.
One character makes it clear: there is no room for sympathy in war. President Obama finally put an end to Operation Free Iraq. This is not a time in America’s history for a sympathetic depiction of combat that makes racial profiling look “cool.”
If the two former stuntmen could direct as well as they fight, the film would kill. Instead we are asked to cheer on a fear-inducing, “shoot now, figure it out later” video game made by and for testosterone-fueled war lovers.
It’s barely March, but mark my words: this will rank high on my list of 2012’s worst.
Reader Rating: Zero Stars
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