Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic, editor of Movie City News and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Check a few signs on Twitter (@chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram (instagram.com/raypride). Twitter: @RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)
Eight active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) play versions of themselves in a plot that screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (a “300” co-writer) allegedly built around actual SEAL missions. The “boots on the ground” lingo includes: “He pulled a Roman Polanski on me.” “This film is based on real acts of valor,” states a title in “Act of Valor.” This routine thriller starts with SEAL operators “extracting” a captured CIA operative tortured by an electric drill. Next they target a jihadist and a narco-smuggler conspiring to bring sixteen Filipino and Filipina suicide bombers into the U.S. via a tunnel under a milk factory in Mexicali. To incite “total economic collapse” among unbelievers, each northbound martyr wears a vest containing 500 ceramic ball bearings and ultra explosive gel. They were sewn in a Ukrainian loft where a terrorist played Brahms on his violin. Co-directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, who made a seven-minute recruitment video in 2007 for the Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, appear onscreen for an unusual introduction. The ammo is live and the tears are real, they tell us. Like reality TV? Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut (“Terminator Salvation”) hypes his “first-person-shooter perspective” via helmet-cams as in the video game “Call of Duty.” “We feel it’s an entirely new genre of film, the authentic action film,” overstates onetime stuntman McCoy in the press notes. The U.S. Navy commissioned “Act of Valor” for recruitment purposes. It did not pay for the film, but Navy Special Warfare Command got final cut to keep tactical secrets from enemies in the audience. The Navy also got all the raw video. Whatever extra realism there is might be invisible to civilian viewers, whose screen-action standards have been shaped by untold retired military advisors on past films. (The SEALs here never do that two-fingers-pointing-at-their-
eyes-then-point-over-there thing you always see in other movies.) Wearing camouflage, they can impersonate Costa Rican plants and Somalian rocks with tactical, if not theatrical finesse. But screen acting is obviously not part of the skill set imparted to SEAL operators. With Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sánchez, Nestor Serrano, Emilio Rivera and various U.S. Navy personnel using pseudonyms. 101m. (Bill Stamets)
“Act Of Valor” opens today.