This Navy SEALs actioner - featuring real SEALs! - balances killer action sequences and unconvincing dramatic storytelling with an entertaining zeal....
Fox / 110 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: June 5, 2012
Something big is always about to go down in Act of Valor. This Bruckheimer-esque yarn about Navy SEALs and their particular brand of kickass-ness breathes with looming danger - there are never any moments in the film where characters on screen are allowed to simply chill out for a second. Yet while this makes the personal lives of our fictional warriors nerve-wracking and unsteady, it's lucky for directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh - such a dramatic setup makes for a fantastic action flick.
It at least affords the shape of a great actioner: Act of Valor is rat-a-tat escapist fare, but it lacks any kind of cinematic savvy as a full story. When tensions flare and these guys have to sweep in to some of the most dangerous places on the planet, it's impossible not to get completely lost in the good guys/bad guys struggle of the thing, but the humanity within the picture is of cookie-cutter quality. Its flag-waving and explosive wartime sentiments are air-tight; its emotional and dramatic authenticity is shaky.
But often films like Act of Valor don't need to be savvy to be entertaining (and at the very least, it's better than Charlie Sheen's Navy Seals). The movie doesn't waste much time setting up its basic premise: A CIA operative (Roselyn Sanchez) gets kidnapped in Costa Rica because she knows too much about an upcoming terrorist plot led by the devious Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle). He's arranging for a set of bombs to be detonated within the United States, and he has a fellow conspirator (Alex Veadov) whose primary purpose is to smuggle a team of terrorists into the country to carry out the act. Help us, Navy SEALs!
Zippy action sequences - with real SEALs participating - are Act of Valor's most accomplished assets. When bullets start flying, the movie can be a bloody, exciting blast. Any attempt to look beyond triggers here, though, will end up disappointing. Act of Valor has the overall feel of a solid, Top Gun-esque action flick, but there's no heart beating beneath its body armor. It can be exciting, but one can't help but wish there was a bit more meat on the bone here.