Act Of Valor

Act Of Valor


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

While few people would dispute the bravery of those who volunteer for armed forces across the world, it's debatable whether we're ready for them to make the gung-ho leap from protecting and serving to acting. And yet, here we are with Act Of Valor - a film about and starring US Navy SEALs. It comes with a seal of approval from the Pentagon, which goes a long way to explaining why it plays out like a feature-length 'Your Country Needs You' advert with directorial input from the Hallmark Channel.

This hasn't stopped it raking in cash at the US box office, however, taking $24.7 million on its opening weekend alone. It's a feat that I doubt it will be repeating on this side of the Atlantic, where cynicism regarding the US military's role in various warzones is already running high, especially after the recent allegation that one of their soldiers had suffered a breakdown in Afghanistan and gone on an armed rampage.

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The eager but jingoistic tone of the film's co-directors in a brief opening sequence explaining why they chose to use real troops is also likely to prompt more laughter than loyalty to the cause. And even if you set all politics aside, this is - apart from its halfway decent action sequences and occasionally rather beautiful cinematography - a truly bad film.

Act Of Valor essentially marries platitude with attitude, veering from the realms of wholesome all-American family life to bullets-raging battle scenes.

The lifeless body of a plot, for those who care about such things, cunningly strings together the hot-button issues of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, as two childhood pals turned bad guys - one, a Jewish Chechen smuggler named Cristo (Alex Veadov) and the other, a Muslim-convert Jihadist - plot to smuggle undetectable human suicide bombs into the continental US from Mexico. Just in case there is any doubt, you can tell they are truly evil because of their strong eastern accents and their decision to meet in the sort of huge window overlooking a city that only truly evil kingpins in films ever seem to have access to.

It's up to the SEALs to rescue a kidnapped CIA Agent and then hot-foot it south to capture the deadly duo, pausing only to murder some chunks of expository script along the way. To be fair, the dialogue is so weak, you could consider it a mercy killing. Gems such as the rescued hostage being told, "Miss Morales, I'm bringing you home, but first I have a couple of questions - what is your mother's maiden name?" may be true to protocol but they come off as unintentionally comic - and worrying - against the backdrop of the film. It sounds as though they are about to offer her a bank account not a rescue and, what if she were, in her tortured haze, to be unable to articulate the details? Would she just be left their to rot for fear she was a terrorist in disguise?

Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh fare best in the action scenes. Able to capture the SEALs while on manoeuvres with live amunition, there is a sense of the men's bravery and skill and the camerawork from Shane Hurlbut is often inventive. Tacked to such terrible scripting - including narration that smothers all before it - the scenes feel more like something from a computer game than a living breathing entity. Making it through the runtime of this is an act of valour on the part of the audience.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2012
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An elite team of Navy SEALs embark on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent and stop a suicide bomb plot.
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Director: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh

Writer: Kurt Johnstad

Starring: Alexander Asefa, Jeffrey Barnachea, Kenny Calderon, Raul Canizales II, Drea Castro, Sam Cespedes, Jimmy Chhiu, Charles Chiyangwa, Antoni Corone, Jason Cottle, Jesse Cotton, Craig H. Davidson, Juan Diaz, Aurelius DiBarsanti, Pedro Sergio Escobedo

Year: 2012

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US


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