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With: Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Directed by: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including some torture, and for language
Running Time: 101
Date: 02/07/2012

Act of Valor (2012)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brass 'Act'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It features real-life Navy SEALs as the lead characters, but rather than a documentary, Act of Valor is actually a new Hollywood action movie.

According to a filmed introductory statement by co-directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, while researching their film, they decided to use the real-life guys, believing that actors could not possibly understand the lives of these men.

And in some cases, it turns out that their choice was a good one. Real SEALs can perform precision tasks with speed and authority, as per their training. Actors couldn't make it look quite so real.

But when it comes to scenes of talking and conveying emotions like friendship, fear, agony, and heartbreak, that's where actors are trained and SEALs are not. Let's just say that Act of Valor isn't about to launch the careers of any Oscar-worthy thespians.

However, in their favor, no actor alive could make much out of the writing here. It comes from the pen of Kurt Johnstad, whose 300 marked a new low in Hollywood screenwriting.

The plot, which is "based on real acts of valor," concerns a wealthy smuggler who teams up with a terrorist. This terrorist is so evil that he blows up a group of children with a bomb in an ice-cream truck.

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

An undercover CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) has the scoop on these guys, but she's kidnapped and tortured.

In the movie's best sequence, the SEALs rescue her from a jungle compound. It's an exciting sequence filled with clever escapes and surprises.

Unfortunately, the rest of the action falls apart. In their efforts to depict "reality," the filmmakers opt for the typical choppy, shaky-cam look. They completely ignore the concepts of space and rhythm that could make these sequences exciting.

Then, when there's no jumping, spying or fighting going on, the characters unfortunately speak to one another, usually accompanied by walking, since the directors have no idea how else to make these scenes visual.

Some of the exchanges seem designed like a Navy recruiting film, but others are stale chestnuts out of a thousand bad action/war movies. It's a script that even Chuck Norris would have thought twice about.

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

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