out of Five
Running time: 100
Given that Act of Valour uses non-actors, it's perhaps not surprising that the dialogue and performances are so poor, but the action scenes are genuinely exciting and the film will play well to its target audience, even if the gung ho jingoism may prove too much for some tastes.
What's it all about?
Co-directed by Mike 'Mouse' McCoy and Scott Waugh, Act of Valour started off as a US Navy Seals recruitment video before being expanded into a full-length feature and released theatrically in the States, the gimmick being that real-life US Navy Seals play versions of themselves. When an undercover agent (Roselyn Sanchez, from Without a Trace) is kidnapped and tortured by a Central American gang, long-time best friends and colleagues Rorke and Dave assemble their elite unit of US Navy Seals and stage a dangerous rescue mission.
However, when they examine a phone taken from one of the kidnappers, they discover that the Central American gang have ties to Christo (Alex Veadov), a notorious arms dealer who, in turn, is working with Shabal (Jason Cottle), a ruthless Chechen terrorist who's planning a devastating attack on the US mainland involving dozens of deadly undetectable suicide bomber vests and a powerful new explosive. With the clock ticking, Rorke, Dave and their men have to use every bit of knowledge and expertise at their disposal in order to stop Shabal's plan.
The acid test for any action thriller is whether or not it makes your heart beat faster and on that score, Act of Valour merits a pass, thanks to some genuinely exciting action sequences that play like an episode of 24 with multiple Jack Bauers. The initial rescue sequence, in particular, is thrillingly staged, heightened by some hand-held and occasional point-of-view camerawork that puts you right there in the action, videogame style (a clear nod towards its Call of Duty-playing target audience). Similarly, like 24 (almost certainly an inspiration for the project), the film benefits from a terrorist plot that, while hopefully preposterous at least ensures that the stakes are suitably high.
The main problem is that the script is extremely simplistic, so the token stabs at character depth (one guy has a pregnant wife back home) feel forced and awkward, while you only really get to know three of the others. Similarly, the acting is so wooden that at times it resembles a real-life Team America, in more ways than one.
It's also fair to say that the rampant gung ho jingoism (“America – fuck yeah!”, etc) may prove too much for certain UK audiences, though its target audience of shoot-'em-up fans are unlikely to care too much about the film's politics.
While certainly not for everyone, Act of Valour's pacing and action sequences are enjoyable enough to ensure that this remains a watchable shoot-'em-up, even if it falls down elsewhere.