The first trailer for Act of Valor looked like a reboot of the Three Doors Down and Kid Rock National Guard commercials that ran in theaters back in 2008 and 2009. Bad music and lots of hype. Humvees, Apache helicopters, explosions, America. With that being said, I had low expectations despite Act of Valor’s hook that it stars active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs who filmed on location all across the world in between real-life missions.
Act of Valor isn’t like those commercials. It’s a closer relative of the Call of Duty Black Ops and Modern Warfare video games, down to fancy map overlays, on-screen dossiers and often boring cut scenes between action sequences. There’s even a real-life “second chance” in the film where, like the video game, a solider bleeding out on the ground can still fire his pistol until his heart stops or an enemy plugs him with a few more rounds.
The plot centers on post-9/11 global terrorism with the SEALs looking to thwart the plans of a bloodthirsty jihadi and his wealthy financier. It follows a lot of tropes of the genre like pre-battle bonding scenes and witty banter before parachuting into hostile territory. These SEALs are Jason Bournes, not Dutch’s beefy commandos from Predator, but with high tech weaponry on their side, good aim and excellent endurance trump 24-inch biceps. (Plan to be underwhelmed by their physiques and their acting chops.)
Though Act of Valor’s pacing is slow, the action sequences, shot with shaky handheld cameras with a lot of first-person, are riveting. The weaponry and special effects are jaw-dropping. And if that’s what a mini-gun really sounds like, I’m glad I write movie reviews rather than work for a Costa Rican smuggling ring.