Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Stars: real life SEALs, Rosalyn Sanchez, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Alex Veadov, Emilio Rivera.
Films don’t get much more gung ho than this! Real life active-duty Navy SEALS play Navy SEALs, adding a touch of verisimilitude to this action-packed, fictional account of a real life Navy Seal operation to track down a terrorist.
The men of the elite Bandito Platoon are sent to rescue Morales (Rosalyn Sanchez), a covert CIA agent working as an aid worker in Costa Rica. Morales has been tracking the connection between a Ukrainian drug smuggler and terrorist Abul Shabal (Jason Cottle). Morales has been captured and is being tortured to reveal information. The SEALs manage to rescue her in a genuinely exciting adrenaline-fuelled sequence. Her information sets them on a worldwide manhunt to track down Shabal, the terrorist who was responsible for the assassination of a high-ranking politician in the Philippines. Shabal is “going to make 9/11 look like a walk in Central Park.” He is smuggling suicide bombers into Mexico, where they can use a network of underground tunnels to sneak across the border and bomb U.S. targets.
The action races from the Philippines to Chechnya, from the Ukraine to Somalia, home to modern day pirates, and on to the U.S.-Mexico border, where the drug cartels hold power. The first mission is the most exciting and the rest of the film tends to become a bit monotonous and repetitive. Parts of the film at times resemble one of those first person shooter video games like Call of Duty, and its many point of view shots put the audience behind the sights of the weaponry.
The film has been written by Kurt Johnstad (300, etc), but the plot is unnecessarily convoluted, and the dialogue extremely cliched. The reliance on military jargon may be a bit confusing for novices.
Act Of Valour is the first feature film from the team of Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh, veterans of TV-commercials and former stunt men, who certainly bring plenty of authenticity to the action sequences. This is something of a passion project for the pair, who were able to get cooperation from the US military itself. Act Of Valour started out as a documentary designed as an incredibly manipulative propaganda piece for use as a recruitment tool for the military. The film fairly drips with flag waving patriotism, macho posturing and an almost obscene fetish for heavy weaponry. It may well do for Navy SEAL recruitment what Top Gun did for Navy pilots three decades ago!
The directors were embedded with an actual SEAL unit and spent 50 days over the course of two years shooting elaborate SEAL training exercises, which further adds to the veracity of the action sequences. The chaotic battle scenes are well choreographed by the pair. Act Of Valour is packed with plenty of up-to-the minute battlefield technology and the action scenes are spectacular.
Shane Hurlbut’s hand held camerawork brings a gritty visceral quality to the film, and its visuals seem reminiscent of classic war films like Platoon. The use of real life soldiers and weaponry adds authenticity to the material. Their presence lends a sense of realism that was missing from Navy SEALs, the 1990 Charlie Sheen/Michael Biehn action-adventure about a team of elite soldiers who discover evidence that terrorists have come into possession of dangerous high-tech weapons.
The use of real life SEALS could be dismissed a something of a gimmick, but they bring authenticity to the action. However, the SEALs themselves are little more than one-dimensional stock characters, and their performances are rather wooden. For security reasons they remain anonymous and are not credited individually.
The various secondary characters are played by little known actors, including Sanchez (Rush Hour 2, etc), Nestor Serrano (24, etc), Alex Veadov (We Own The Night, etc) and Emilio Rivera (Con Air, etc), although they are given little screen time.
With Act Of Valour we’ve had the real thing – now bring on Operation Geronimo, the dramatised account of how Navy SEALs took out the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden.