SOC Dave (whoever he may be) serves as our marble-mouthed narrator and member of the team led by Lt. Rorke (also whoever he may be). Partly shot in Bruckheimer burnt orange, their missions take them around the globe, first to rescue a comely CIA agent (Roselyn Sanchez, The Game Plan, Rush Hour 2) who’s been kidnapped and tortured by a terrorist organization, then to thwart said organization’s suicide-vest plot in 16 cities simultaneously that will “make 9/11 look like a fucking walk in the park. Grand Central Park.”
Or, as another character explains it, to give you another example of cringe-worthy dialogue, “Shabal knows how to get Americans in America. This could be big trouble in little China, fellas.” (Another, just for kicks: “Christo pulled a Roman Polanski on my ass and disappeared.”)
At the risk of being accused as un-American, that is not a knock on our U.S. military — just an in-over-its-head script. The halfsies structure makes the picture feel like a pair of TV episodes cobbled together for a theatrical release. Valor carries that level of connect-the-dots predictability; your immediate thoughts of “That truck is going to explode” and “That guy is going to get killed when he answers the door” prove dead-on true. As many times as co-directors/former stuntmen Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh remind viewers that — spoiler alert — Rorke is due to be a first-time dad, you know he’s this film’s version of the old, African-American police captain about to retire from the force.
All that said, I salute Valor for delivering big where it counts: in the action sequences. With particular praise to the movie’s riveting midpoint extraction of Sanchez, they are incredibly choreographed and executed. Part of that scene is shot in the style of first-person-shooter video games, yet I didn’t feel like I was watching one. It’s just a shame the SEALs’ off-the-clock scenes approximating drama fail miserably, but that’s what you get when you ask non-actors to carry all that weight. In effect, the filmmakers have traded believability for authenticity; the two sound the same, but are not.
To see both sides excel, I look forward to Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker follow-up depicting the SEALs’ execution of Osama bin Laden. Until then, I’ll revisit portions of the well-intentioned Act of Valor and its global force for good. When it aims strictly for action, good is what it gets; when it doesn’t, American cheese. —Rod Lott