Act Of Valor

Year: 2012
Production Co: Bandito Brothers
Director: Mike McCoy
Producer: Mike McCoy
Writer: Kurt Johnstad

The only thing I was sure of about this film was that I'd hate it. I'd heard so much about how it was a flag waving, pro-US military exercise in propaganda, so I expected lots of stoic monologues about freedom and honour, kids playing in slo-mo on farms, pregnant wives crying on docks, etc. I expected a Michael Bay film without even the welcome distraction of explosions and CGI.

All that jingoism is there, and as with most big budget movies that involve the US military, it's enough to make you gag. But what I didn't expect was a more or less entertaining military thriller in the middle of it if you can filter all that out.

It's not only not as bad as you've heard, it's just as watchable (or not, depending on your taste) as Transformers or Battleship – both of which have as much techno-love and military fetishism. Because of the marketing hook (the cast members are all real US soldiers) the acting is terrible, but that's a criticism you can level at almost any sci-fi/big budget/CGI/military action thriller.

A troop (platoon, company, whatever) ship out to the jungles of Mexico to recover a captured CIA agent being tortured by a drug lord. But when they extract her, she reveals the drug lord her and her murdered partner have been watching might be part of a much larger terrorist operation being planned against multiple attacks in the US.

The team has to redeploy to try and track down the real bad guy, a fearsome killer orchestrating a huge operation involving vests filled with ceramic ball bearings that don't show up on metal detectors.

It's probably one of the most accurate depictions of military hardware and procedure on film in recent times, and there's an effective action movie in there as long as the cast keep their mouths closed and their guns drawn – just like most military movies made by 'professional' Hollywood. In the atrocious scripting and acting but realistic depiction of the military, it's actually a close cousin to Battle: Los Angeles (only without aliens).

interesting aside – it was DP'd by Shane Hurlbut, who probably thought running around explosions and fires was a walk in the park after being screamed at in Christian Bale's famous Terminator Salvation rant.

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