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Movie: Review: A Depressing and Shameful "Act"
Director(s): Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
Cast: Alex Veadov, Nestor Serrano, Roselyn Sanchez
Recently on Rottentomatoes, I read several comments on the negative reviews for Act of Valor, and I got to say, I was surprised with what I read. People are surprisingly nasty with critics who were not sold on this film. It was almost like by disliking this movie, which cast real life, active Navy SEALS in leading roles, audiences assumed that critics were ungrateful for the sacrifices these brave men made for their country.
Let it be noted for the record that I am and always will be grateful for those brave men and women who fought and died for my freedom and safety, as well as those who are currently fighting for it. I am grateful, and yet, I still very much loathed this movie.
I understand that this movie is meant to commemorate the brave men and women who fought and died for their country, but the movie does these patriots a grave disservice by robbing them of their humanity. Navy SEALS are human beings, just like you and I. They have their own personalities, their own back stories, beliefs, fears, hopes, flaws, etc. Take away these things, and what do you have? It's not enough to show these men with their wives and children back home in brief clips. That's not development. The characters are so poorly defined, in fact, that I often times had difficulty telling some of them apart.
There is one character who stands out, and that is only because I knew from the very beginning that he was going to die. I would like to tell you the character's name, but to be honest, I can not for the life of me remember what it was. How did I know he was going to die, though? Because, usually in war movies this generic, when a soldier is expecting a first child, it's more than a possibility that he will not live to see its birth. However, when said soldier hands a letter to his buddy to give to his son, in case something will happen, it's a total certainty that said soldier will die on the battlefield. It happened in last year's atrocious Battle: Los Angeles, so I didn't see why it wouldn't happen in this film.
And the action scenes? The trailers promised set pieces that were filmed in crisp compositions and eye-catching slow motion shots. The movie offers something else entirely. Virtually all of the gun battles are filmed in shaky close-up shots, so that it is almost impossible to tell what's going on at any given time. Occasionally, the movie cuts to a point-of-view shot of one of the soldiers in the midst of battle, and the effect is initially interesting. But even that visual trick is over used to death, and the rest of the time, we have to struggle to make heads or tails of what's transpiring on screen.
The plot, which is based on “real acts of valor,” is nothing special at all and is hideously structured. The movie opens up in the Philippines, where one masked terrorists kills a number of school children in an ice cream truck explosion. It is said that an American ambassador was killed in the blast, yet neither the blast nor the ambassador's death is mentioned again in the film. This could've been the inciting incident that springs the men into action, but it isn't until an undercover CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez) is kidnapped and tortured by some shady figures that they're called away from their families and sent into battle.
Once they rescue her in an unusually unexciting action sequence, they uncover a terrorist plot that involves a wealthy smuggler and a Muslim terrorist using ceramic based bomb vests in major US cities. The attack is going to be so massive, one terrorist notes that “It will make 9/11 look like a walk in the park.” I feel bad to admit this, but I sort of chuckled at that line and the way it was delivered. It reminded me of the moment in Team America: World Police where someone says the terrorist plot will be like “9/11 times a thousand.”
In nearly every way imaginable, Act of Valor is a failure. The acting is terrible. The dialogue is so bad it would make Ed Wood flush with embarrassment. The cinematography is murky and jittery. The editing is deplorable. I wanted to embrace this movie like so many people, but the more I tried, the more angry and frustrated I became. I read somewhere that the SEALS cast in this movie were on active duty during filming and are currently on duty now. I hope and pray for the best for these men. A good movie should be made about warriors like them, it's just that Act of Valor is not that film. It's nothing more than a brainless Hollywood action film, and what's worse is that it's not even a good one.
Final Grade: * (out of ****)
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