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December 19, 2014

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Film review: ‘Act of Valor’

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Yes, these are real Navy SEALs in ‘Act of Valor.’ And no, they can’t act.

The Details

Act of Valor
Two stars
Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Rated R
Beyond the Weekly
Official Movie Site
IMDb: Act of Valor
Rotten Tomatoes: Act of Valor

The selling point of the action movie Act of Valor is its uncommon dedication to realism: The protagonists are all played by actual active-duty Navy SEALs, none of whom are credited. Many of the action sequences used live ammunition, since directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh essentially filmed SEAL training exercises and then fashioned them into a narrative. And McCoy and Waugh assert that this is the first movie to show the reality of how SEALs operate, as opposed to the phony Hollywood version showcased in other movies.

The result, however, is a poorly acted feature-length military recruitment video (which is how the project originated), with anonymous characters, a paint-by-numbers plot and jumbled, excessively violent action sequences. The stars of this movie may be real-life heroes and worthy documentary subjects, but that doesn’t make them good actors or compelling screen presences, and the clumsy script by Kurt Johnstad certainly doesn’t do these non-actors any favors.

The story could be lifted from any season of 24, with a loosely defined terrorist network planning to set off bombs in major American cities. The SEALs who work to track down the bad guys lack any defining personality traits, and the effort to add patriotic gravitas by framing the movie with somber voiceover by one of the stars falls flat, since he sounds about as convincing as a kid in a school play. Recruitment videos are designed to be simplistic, one-sided and artless, but that approach is a failure when expanded into a narrative feature.

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