Publicity for this film boasts that it stars “eight active duty SEALS” and was “compiled from actual US Navy SEAL missions.” So, of course, it comes across as a big recruitment ad (which it was originally intended to be) - the kind they used to show between trailers for films that make bold statements like “Navy: It’s Not Just a Job, It’s an Adventure.”
But the adventure here is a standard one – a Navy SEAL squad takes on terrorists who have captured a CIA agent – with plotting right out of a video game, and instead of giving audiences an inside look into the exciting operations of our fighting men in action, it mainly serves as proof that Navy SEALS may be trained to perform under pressure in intense violent missions, but they sure aren’t trained how to act.
There are several no name actors in the cast (Alex Veadov, Emilio Rivera, and Roselyn Sánchez, who plays the kidnapped agent), but the SEALs, whose show this is, aren’t named in the credits, so it’s difficult to single out individual characters. However, since there are no distinctive characters, that’s not really an issue.
What is an issue is how generic and un-arresting the action sequences are - despite the quite capable cinematography of Shane Hurlbut. There’s an impenetrable muddiness to the combat shoot-outs (possibly attributed to the 18 mm cameras on the soldier’s helmets – you know, to get the authenticity down), and the conclusion involving the terrorist villains’ luxury yacht (complete with close-ups of bikini-clad women’s asses) echoes a bad episode of Miami Vice.
To cover all the bases of military movie clichés, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (the guy who wrote 300 - go figure) mixes in some icky unaffecting melodrama about a pregnant wife back home, and an over serious narration which makes this point about the squad: “A single twig will break, but a bundle of twigs will remain strong” (Google “bundle of twigs” for what I couldn’t help thinking when that was said).
To its credit, directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh’s debut wasn’t just to be a glorified recruitment film, but also to raise money for the Naval SEAL Foundation, which benefits families of fallen SEALS. It’s just that such a worthy cause deserves a worthwhile movie, and ACT OF VALOR, with all its stiff acting and generic gaming, is far from it.