This action film's claim to fame is that it stars active-duty Navy SEALs. The advantage of that tactic is that the guys look right in camouflage and handle military ordnance smartly.
The problem is that these stoic warriors infect Act of Valor with more wooden acting than you'd see at a ventriloquism school.
Fortunately, the pros in the cast, especially the ones playing the bad guys, rave it up so wildly that it all nulls out.
The film is basically three covert missions (of diminishing interest) stapled together. But first we must establish the despicably evil nature of our enemies.
They wouldn't! They would? Schoolchildren? That tears it! Shoot until your guns melt, boys!
There's a villainous Jihadist conspiracy in the works, one that's "going to make 9/11 look like a walk in Grand Central Park." Right. If only there were such a place.
Curiously, for how often the global aspects of this plot are stressed, the SEALs team engages over and over only with drug thugs from Mexico and Central America.
One suspects it's a budgetary consideration.
Directors Scott Waugh and Mouse McCoy, who promote themselves as the Bandito Brothers, swipe a number of visual devices from video games (probably an accurate indication of their target audience).
In fact, many of the action scenes use the same point of view as first-person-shooter games - you're jogging through terrain with green-tinted night vision and the barrel of your rifle is bobbing in front of you.
This gamer facade is what makes Act of Valor disturbing in the end. The killing becomes cold and clinical. You watch as one of our snipers dispassionately and from a great distance lays out these scruffy untrained campesinos one after the other with graphic head shots.
Near the end, the film degenerates into an extended, chaotic firefight. You know who you're supposed to be rooting for because they're the ones wearing uniforms, but it's easy to lose touch with why.
Act of Valor lacks the most basic filmic technique of personalizing the battle. Sound meets fury. In a neutral setting.
Shouldn't our SEALs at least get home-screen advantage?
Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or email@example.com. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.