‘Act of Valor’: Real SEALs, real bullets, real clichés | 2½ stars
By LOEY LOCKERBY
Special to The Star
* * 1/2
Rated R | Time: 1:41
Act of Valor is not a documentary, but it probably should have been.
It stars real, active-duty Navy SEALs, demonstrating (without compromising national security) how they do their jobs. The script is fictional and actors play the non-SEAL roles, but it’s all inspired by real incidents. And that’s live ammo in those weapons.
This commitment to authenticity is impressive, but it ends up highlighting the film’s greatest weakness — a cliché-riddled script with a plot that may have been generated by someone throwing darts at a world map.
The SEALs’ identities are not revealed, but they’re pretty interchangeable anyway, following the war-movie rule that you only provide backstory for the leader, the comic relief and/or the guy you plan to kill. The storyline involves taking down a terrorist (Jason Cottle) whose childhood friend (Alex Veadov) happens to be an international arms dealer. That’s all you really need to know.
Directors Scott Waugh and Mike “Mouse” McCoy are former stuntmen, so their natural inclination is not to rely on choppy editing and computer-generated effects to make the action scenes exciting. Casting SEALs means they don’t even have to consider that approach. These guys can’t act (or overcome the bad dialogue), but they make Rambo look like a 5-year-old girl.
The visceral excitement of following actual elite forces into carefully re-created missions is the selling point of Act of Valor. Waugh, McCoy and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad aren’t content to play to their strengths, though, and include cheesy voiceovers and other displays of awkward sentimentality to remind everyone that we’re dealing with Genuine American Heroes here. This kind of tear-jerking fakery pulls viewers out of a story that didn’t need the help. The message is loud and clear every time the bullets start flying.
Posted on Thu, Feb. 23, 2012 04:00 PM