Having just finished off another year of the Sundance Film Festival, another independent film getting released at the end of February doesn’t lend itself to high hopes. Add to that the fact of having two directors (Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh) making their big screen debut, you hope that they at least have the passion to pull off the project.
With the decision to cast their film Act of Valor with active duty Navy SEALs in a plot to stop an act of terrorism against the United States, you hope things don’t turn into a live action version of Team America. Unfortunately, however, as unintentionally hilarious as that would have been, it might have actually helped things out in the long run. The biggest culprit may be Kurt Johnstad’s obnoxious script. Why these SEALs won’t shut up and shoot somebody constantly runs through your mind during a way too long 111 minute run time.
Act of Valor opens with a monologue from monotone main character Dave (none of the SEALs real names are disclosed in the film’s credits). He’s writing a letter which sounds an awful lot like foreshadowing. Soon enough, we find out that his friend Rourke has a baby on the way (bom bom bom). Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a U.S. Ambassador has just been assassinated, and CIA officer Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) has been taken hostage by Christo (Alex Veadov), our token Russian bad guy. Now Navy SEAL Team 7 (including Dave and Rourke) are sent in to rescue Morales, after which it is discovered that Christo is working with another terrorist to bring suicide bombers into the U.S. undetected. Christo hollowly points out that it will make “9/11 look like a walk in the park, Central Park,” unless Team 7 can stop them first.
I understand that directors McCoy and Waugh apparently had a great time working with the SEALs on their last project, the documentary short Navy SWCC. But these two know nothing about staging an action scene, especially considering they wanted to use the real SEALs in this film in order to show off their use of live ammunition and true Navy artillery in action. All this shows are real SEALs now even more out of their element as they are not actors. Just goes to show why it took the directors eight months to convince them to even star in this.
Meanwhile, sitting in the audience, we still know that it’s all just another day in Hollywood. We’re still watching just another fictional dramatization based on “true acts of valor.” And the biggest problem of all is that it’s shot so amateurishly that there’s not even any excitement to make you able to turn off your brain and enjoy the show. Just because one truck blows up real good, doesn’t justify an Act of Valor on the filmmakers’ parts.
Photo courtesy Relativity Media