Act of Valor is, according to the opening titles, “based on real acts of valor,” whatever that means. It stars real active-duty Navy SEALs, and much of it was filmed with live-fire ammunition. None of the above works to strengthen the muddled movie's dramatic narrative, but the film's boasted authenticity — including cameos from the latest in military hardware — and its closing dedication “to all the warriors headed downrange in the future” make clear the principal aim: This is a lavish recruiting tool.
After a suicide bombing at the International School in Jakarta, a sketchily characterized SEAL team must deploy to the likes of Costa Rica, the Sudan and Mexico to follow the border-hopping conspiracy of a Jihadist network led by a Ukrainian-born convert to Islam, Abul Shabal (Jason Cottle), arranging to purchase the latest in suicide-bomb technology from his boyhood friend, an arms dealer (Alex Veadov).
The villains come across as individuals rather more compellingly than do the film's ostensible heroes. You might argue that individual faces don't matter here, as individuals aren't the heroes of Act of Valor so much as is the organization, the unit. But if this is an homage to teamwork, it's no great shakes at clarifying how the team works. Tactical clarity largely escapes Act of Valor: It's all about you-are-there adrenaline injections, a string of jolts to work up an appetite for the real thing. —Nick Pinkerton (Citywide)