Act of Valor Review
Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Produced by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Written by Kurt Johnstad
Starring Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, and Emilio Rivera
Runtime: 1 hr, 50 min
Released: February 24, 2012
Reviewed January 11, 2013
I feel like a bit of a jerk giving this movie the review I’m about to give it, and I want to be very clear about something before I start. I am a patriotic American. I am very proud of our men and women serving overseas in the armed forces and giving their lives for our great country. There should be a movie dedicated to them that shows the sacrifices that they make. It should just be better than this. Maybe actual Navy SEALs should star in the movie. Just make sure they’re better actors...than in this. As you can probably tell, I don’t think much of this movie. Why? Let’s find out.
OK, the vague semblance of a plot that this movie has is as follows. A group of elite Navy SEALs are sent to extract a captive CIA operative. The operative reveals to them knowledge of a terrorist attack that would destroy the infrastructure of the USA, so now they have to stop it...and that’s it. Yes, what they basically did in this movie is take the most generic war/thriller/action movie plot, added nothing to it, and got it a budget and wide release. It has to be literally one of the skimpiest plotted movies I have ever seen, and I’ve seen some pretty skimpy movies. When you make a movie, there should be something new to add if you’re using a basic plot. You should always bring something new to the table, whether if it’s an original plot or an age-old tale. Act of Valor just does not do this. A middle schooler with basic knowledge of war that comes from Tom Clancy books (I read them in middle school, I can’t be the only one) could have come up with this plot. I could believe that any studio would actually back this...
...until I remembered that it was starring actual U.S. Navy SEALs. I could practically see movie studio executives reading that line of the proposal, their eyes turning into giant cartoonish dollar signs, and saying, “Helloooo, paycheck!”. I’ve gotten into several arguments with people over whether or not it is right to criticize Act of Valor over the fact that it’s not-real-actors actors suck at acting. I see their point, too. These guys are Navy SEALs, not actors. They probably didn’t have any acting classes growing up.
That being said, Act of Valor is still a major motion picture, and that generally means that you should hire real actors. I can understand the appeal of wanting to have real SEALs for action scenes so that they know what they’re doing...but there are some calm scenes in this movie. There are some scenes with actual dialogue that requires a certain amount of acting, which none of these guys can do. It seems painfully obvious to me that this choice wasn’t even so much about the action scene authenticity than it was getting people to come see the movie. Like I said before, Act of Valor brings very little to the table, so the odds of people actually going to see it if there wasn’t something special about it were very slim. You’d basically have war movie junkies, and that’s it. So, someone had the bright idea to have the movie star actual Navy SEALs. Think of the money! They somehow managed to rope a few guys into doing it, and, sure enough, people flocked to see Act of Valor in freaking droves out of some kind of misplaced sense of patriotism. It ended up making eighty million dollars, and I have my doubts that it would have made a quarter of that had it starred actual actors.
There were actual actors in the movie, and I have to say, they don’t suck. The performances from them, as well as the characters they portrayed, just weren’t memorable. That’s another problem with this movie, the characters. Act of Valor is 110 minutes long. Given that time, another movie could have given you characters that you actually cared about. You would have known their names, their back stories, felt for them, and given a crap when they were in danger. Act of Valor on the other hand, gives you straight-up, two-dimensional good guys and bad guys. The good guys are perfect, the bad guys are despicable. The good guys are SEALs, and you are expected/commanded to care about them for that reason alone. They have no depth. They have no backstory. There is no reason for us to care besides the fact that they are SEALs played by SEALs. Okay, movie, listen up: You cannot do that! You absolutely cannot just rely solely on some kind of misplaced sense of patriotism to craft characters that we are supposed to give two craps about. That’s cheating! Pure cheating!
Okay, now that that rant is out of my system, I hope that you see what I’m saying. The characters in this movie are once again, something a middle schooler could have come up with. Why? Because they don’t really require any coming up with. When the only trait of your character is that they are a soldier, that’s not a real character. That’s an extra with a starring role, not a main character to sculpt a movie around.
Now, with my problems out of the way, the thing that really brought the movie back from pure, insufferable, irredeemable crap were those freaking action scenes. If there is one thing that Act of Valor does right, it is crafting a terrific action scene. They’re intense, realistic, fast-paced, terse, and they can make it all these things without giving us characters we care about. In all seriousness, though the action scenes were fantastic, especially the last one, which also managed to show the ultimate sacrifice that some soldiers make for their country. The action scenes were honestly the only thing that kept this movie from being an epic fail, but I couldn’t help thinking during each one of them, “This could have been so much cooler of an action scene if the writer had just taken the time to make characters that we genuinely cared about and wanted to get out alive for other reasons than him just being a soldier.”
If you haven’t caught on by now, I despise this movie. The acting sucks, the characters are bland and not memorable at all, the plot is bland and unoriginal, and it was clearly only approved as a movie to line someone’s pocket. The only redeemable feature of it are the action scenes, which could have been better if any effort at all had been put into other parts. It relied solely on misplaced patriotism over substance to get people to come see it. To make a horrible pun, it takes an act of valor to make it through Act of Valor. The fact that SEALs were clearly starring in it to make it better-looking to audiences than the piece of crap it is is just about as despicable as the movie itself. To repeat myself, there really should be a movie that commemorates the sacrifice that some soldiers make for this country. When it’s made, if it's made, though, I hope to God that it’s better than Act of Valor.
ACT OF VALOR’S FINAL SCORE: 9/29; 31%; D
Wannabe Movie Critic