'Act of Valor' a noble dud 

click to enlarge Stand guard: “Act of Valor” features real-life, active duty Navy SEALs in major roles. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Stand guard: “Act of Valor” features real-life, active duty Navy SEALs in major roles.

Though it features real-life U.S. Navy SEALs as the lead characters, “Act of Valor" is actually a new Hollywood action movie – not a documentary.  

In a filmed introductory statement, co-directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh said research influenced their decision to use the real-life guys rather than actors, who could not possibly understand the daily lives of SEALs.

On one level, their choice was good. Trained SEALs perform precision tasks with speed and authority in a way that actors cannot duplicate.

But actors’ training is important when it comes to talking and conveying relationships and emotions such as friendship, fear, agony and heartbreak. Let's just say "Act of Valor" won’t launch careers of any Oscar-worthy thespians.

Still, no living actor could salvage this screenplay, which comes from the pen of Kurt Johnstad, whose "300" marked a new low in Hollywood screenwriting.

The plot, "based on real acts of valor," concerns a wealthy smuggler who teams up with a terrorist who is so evil he bombs an ice-cream truck, killing nearby children.

Their plan involves sending a new kind of ceramic-based bomb-vest into the U.S., which apparently will "make 9/11 look like a walk in the park."

Undercover CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) has the scoop on these guys, but she's kidnapped and tortured.
In the movie's best sequence, SEALs rescue her from a jungle compound. Filled with clever escapes and surprises, it’s exciting.

The rest of the action doesn’t fare as well. In efforts to depict "reality," filmmakers opt for typical choppy, shaky camera work and  ignore concepts of space and rhythm that could make the scenes thrilling.

When there isn’t any jumping, spying or fighting, the characters unfortunately speak to each other – and often are walking, since the directors have no other ideas for creating interesting visuals.

While some exchanges sound like they are from a U.S. Navy recruiting film, others are stale, from a thousand bad action and war movies. Even Chuck Norris would have thought twice about this script.

No insult intended toward the actual Navy SEALs, but this movie is a dud.


Act of Valor ★½

One and a half stars
Starring Navy SEALs, Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano
Written by Kurt Johnstad
Directed by Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
Rated R
Running time 1 hour 41 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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