New release should drop the act and focus on the valor

March 5, 2012

If they decided to splice out the the most patriotic parts of "Team America: World Police," and base a live-action film on it, it might closely resemble the Navy SEALS feature "Act of Valor."

But while the action in "Valor" is undeniably intense and in-your-face, the puppets of "Team America" has a slight advantage in the acting department.

I realize that merely typing that sentence could get me executed in my sleep tonight, but while there may be some advantages to casting real-life SEALs, their acting ain't one of 'em.

Of course, the big marketing ploy for "Valor" was its "unprecedented access" to serving officers and live ammunition. So, it begs the question, if they had such exclusive admittance to this elite squad, why did they not just shoot a documentary?

Instead, they invited the men to become active participants in the narrative. And, unfortunately, it's a script that even a troupe of dutiful actors would have trouble pulling off, much less a troop of active-duty officers.

To demonstrate their bad-assery (as if there was any question), writer Kirk Johnstad concocts a plot in which just about every fringe faction outside the good ol' U.S. of A conspires to take us down. Mexican drug cartels, Russian Mafia, Middle Eastern suicide bombers and Asian human traffickers somehow are all generically connected in an effort to make 9/11 look like a walk in the park.

It's all a setup to stage some (rather intense) action sequences, in which cameras seem to be mounted at every angle, including the helmets and guns on the lead characters. This gives the film an almost video-game quality (for better and for worse), as if they were participants in a real-life "Call of Duty" sequence. I'm not sure morally how I feel about reducing the actual heroism of service members to RPG characters, but from a visual standpoint, it's rather intense.

And while all their military might cannot add heft to the film's weak script, when it comes to action, "Valor" is on target, with a personal authenticity that is both stress-inducing and stirring. And that is a true reason to cast the SEAL Team 7. Sending them to the big screen with a script like that is like sending them to battle without any ammunition, so it's frustrating that with such intimate access to battle (even if it's a training exercise), producers could not have merely shot a documentary on the SEALS' bravery and skill.

"Act of Valor" is still an engaging slice of flag-waving fun, but by eliminating the ridiculous backstory throughout, they could have dropped the "Act" and focused completely on the "Valor."