Blu-ray Review: Despite Real Navy SEALs, ‘Act of Valor’ Feels Painfully Phony

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CHICAGO – “Act of Valor” is a woeful miscalculation on every conceivable level. To call it a movie would be inaccurate. You know those slickly photographed, stupendously smug army recruitment videos that often appear in pre-show movie theater ads? Imagine one of those videos stretched to two hours and passed off as entertainment. It’s like a Michael Bay knockoff without the aliens.

After co-directing 2007’s documentary short, “Navy SWCC,” Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh were asked by the Navy to make a movie about the SEALs. Through their research, McCoy and Waugh decided that the only way to make an accurate film would be to cast real-life Navy SEALs who can shoot real guns and perform real stunts. Yet for all the “reality” on display, McCoy and Waugh have no idea how to make their film feel the least bit authentic. Blu-ray Rating: 0.5/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 0.5/5.0

Despite its alleged good intentions, “Act of Valor” trivializes military service by draining it of its emotional impact, transforming the carnage into a fist-pumping cartoon complete with slo-mo explosions and cardboard representations of good and evil. There’s no insight here about war and the effect that it has on its participants. Several shots offensively mimic the first-person shooter perspective of video games, while characters speak the sort of perfunctory dialogue that often bridges game levels. None of the SEALs in the cast are credited by name, even though “Lt. Rorke” and “Chief Dave” are clearly the main characters. Their acting is on the level of a particularly amateurish church pageant, thus causing their characters to register as less than human. They have the personality of plywood and the emotional range of a Captain America action figure. We’re even spared emotion during the climactic funeral sequence where the tears and cries are muted to the point of irrelevance. Of course, the deceased character’s demise was inevitable in the film’s opening minutes when he announced the fact that he was about to become a father. The script by Kurt Johnstad (“300”) never even bothers to conceal its transparent formula. In light of America’s recent string of unpopular wars, the Navy’s goal with this film was to stoke interest among young viewers with the promise that, “in war, you get to blow stuff up real good.” Too bad the film’s deadening action even fails in its attempt to excite. This is the dullest war picture since Terry Leonard’s 1987 dud, “Death Before Dishonor.”

Act of Valor was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2012.
Act of Valor was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2012.
Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

The great irony of the film lies in its depiction of the villains—all scary foreigners designed to frighten white Americans with their seething Islamic rage. When drug smuggler Christo (Alex Veadov) informs Chechen terrorist Abu Shabal (a wildly over-the-top Jason Cottle) that he’s abandoning his evil plans in order to be with his family, Shabal chastises him for being a traitor. Shabal’s dialogue echoes the rants delivered by Fox News pundits in response to liberal anti-war protestors (Shabal even uses the term “ivory towers”). Does Johnstad realize that he’s equating the unflagging dedication and tunnel vision of American soldiers with that of a terrorist willing to incinerate a crowd of children with an exploding ice cream truck? Apparently not. Even WWII propaganda pictures had more depth and complexity than this fatally shallow abomination. Any war film devoid of emotion or moral ambiguity is inherently dishonest. On the basis of that principle, “Act of Valor” is a pack of lies.

The film is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English and Spanish subtitles, and is available in a combo pack that includes a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy. All of the extras are confined on the Blu-ray disc, and none of them are particularly enlightening. The names of the Navy SEALs remain anonymous in a half hour-long gallery of less-than-candid interviews. On the commentary track, Waugh and McCoy expand on their argument that the film couldn’t have been made with actors, though it took quite a bit of convincing to get the SEALs to sign on to the project. A series of glib, repetitive featurettes boast about the film’s use of real bullets, while a 9-minute compilation of deleted scenes highlight the script’s few feeble attempts at character development. It’s especially excruciating to watch the SEALs gab about their favorite Eastwood and Stallone movies. It doesn’t help that the line, “At least he was a good actor,” is delivered poorly. These guys make the Stallone of “Judge Dredd” look like the Brando of “Streetcar.”

‘Act of Valor’ is released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and stars Roselyn Sanchez, Jason Cottle, Alex Veadov, Nestor Serrano and Emilio Rivera. It was written by Kurt Johnstad and directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh. It was released on June 5, 2012. It is rated R. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

Anonymous111115's picture

That was a terrible review

That was a terrible review the movie was amazing and you are nothing compared to them. Your probably just a army person they r nothing compared to SEALs no one is.

JimAnonymous's picture

Horrible review

That is the absolute worst review I’ve ever read. Could you make it any more obvious that you are basing this review on your hatred for war and the warriors who sacrifice their lives? Dork.

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