Act of Valor: the Truth According to the Duo

| February 24, 2012
Categories: Assorted Ramblings

Opening line of the movie: “The worst thing about growing old is that other men stop seeing you as dangerous.”

Great line. Great way to start out. Warning: there will be vague spoilers, and this is a long one. Get an adult beverage, some aspirin and maybe a condom before you settle in to read. You know how much the Mad Duo hates to be interrupted.

So, there’s been a lot of talk about Act of Valor. No shit you says. Most everyone seems to think it’s going to be really good. I went to see it last Sunday with Kennedy, and rest assured, those people are wrong—it isn’t just really good, it’s appallingly good. It is everything you hope it’s going to be. No shit we says.

What’s not to like about a flick based on real acts of valor and heroism, starring guys who hang it out there for real, filmed by guys who have to wear aprons to protect them from the hot brass of the live rounds they’re using. What’s not to like I ask you?

Me and Slim, we expected it to be good. Granted, we knew it would be hard for them to do a better job (with greater verisimilitude) than Charlie Sheen’s acting in that 1990 Teague masterpiece. We were certain they couldn’t portray SEALs better than Special Agent” Fitch. I’m happy to report they were wrong.

These are real fucking shooters laying some hate down on assholes based entirely on real fucking villains. It’s awesome.

After the screening I got to participate in a Q&A with the writers and director (not the same one from UTR) which almost as cool as watching the movie itself. (Not really. The movie was bad ass, but it was interesting.) I sat between Kennedy (remember, former VJ of Alternative Nation, now hot triathlete radio personality in LA, recently made Bill Maher look like a dumbass on his own show, recently filled in on AM640?) and two high ranking representatives of American Legion Post 43, Hollywood California. (It was interesting to note the crew had obviously picked up some of the military lexicon while hanging with the teams over the last couple years. They used words terms like ‘rules of engagement’ in reference to the actual filming, ‘time on target’, etc.

“This isn’t a documentary, it’s a narrative feature,” one of them said (I can’t remember which one, now, because there was a weirdly hawt chick in front of me and you could almost see her nipples if you craned your neck just right.). “We’re not going to have stars, we’re going to have heroes…and we intentionally held off on the release…it was scheduled to come out earlier, right after they got Bin Laden, but we didn’t want to seem like we were exploiting that. Listen, we want people to know they’ve been doing this shit for 11 years….”

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It has a very believable plot, albeit a compressed one—hours, days and weeks writ small, but there’s no way around that in a feature length film. The cast (not surprisingly) were tactically sound and technically proficient (imagine that) and the females were refreshingly strong characters without anyone being Jason Bourne with boobs, which will make the WTA and Capt. Molly happy. (Not that there’s anything at all wrong with a Jason Bourne with boobs—as in Haywire and now that we think of it a lot of the WTA.) Anyone that knows anything about Beslan, border security and operations in the PI will understand the kinds of things in this movie can and do happen. Anyone that says they can’t is prob’ly the same kind of braindead fuckstick who'd insult respected generals or say border security is about racism.

To be honest, it was actually hard to watch parts of this movie. Between the natural tension built up watching the boys do their thing and the underlying psychological ‘force multiplier’ of knowing the operations are reality based, conducted by real shooters…well, if you’ve ever been shot at or have any empathy for shooters, you can’t help but want to warn them (or at least stack up and go with them).


Best burgers in Coronado, if not the world.


There will be people who don’t like it. Some of them, most probably the truly fucktarded, will dismiss it as propagandistic or shallow. Others, who are of course free to engage in such monumentally misguided shitbaggery (largely because of the sacrifice of men and women like those in the movie), will describe the characters as awkward, or forgettable. Others, like particularly dimwitted hacks like Michael Schenker, will be downright insulting about it, using their review soapbox to accomplish little more than a halfway decent command of the English language and an utter inability to do much of anything than spew bilious anti-military invective stored up from his latest self-congratulatory circle-jerk in the back room with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews.

Now, let’s be clear. There are some awkward parts. These are seasoned operators, not actors and occasionally that comes though in the dialogue. Some parts are more awkward than others (like one scene that looks like it could be filmed in Danny’s—which if you’re curious DOES have the best burgers anywhere) but it’s not enough to detract from the rest of the movie. It’s also not as noticeable when they’re not focused in on the talking (if that makes sense). Once they’re moving (and operational) that slight hitch in their stride goes away. You can definitely tell they were more comfortable in the action sequences than just waiting around waiting on close-ups.

The special eff

ects are magnificent, largely because they’re mostly not special effects. When you watch the gatlings chew up a technical, it’s because those SWCC boys are really chewing up a technical. You see, the production of this movie didn’t involve any special deployments or training exercise to accommodate the plot. In fact, quite the contrary. The writers were forced to remain semper gumby and issue constant FRAGOs so they could incorporate jumps, SDVs and whatever as they became available during training iterations, predeployment evolutions, actually deployment cycles, etc. No taxpayer money was spent to make this movie. It took over two years to shoot because of that, and because almost everyone in the movie did at least one combat tour in Afghanistan during filming. All the events, everything that happens to the boys on the ground, are based on real events. All of them.

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Note to parents: this movie isn’t about young grunts on their first libo in Hong Kong, so none of these real events have anything whatsoever to do with hookers, single-dancing moms and other sordid grunt interests. Again, we have nothing against hookers, but there’s no place for them in this movie.

After the movie, during the Q&A, we had the opportunity to interview the writers and director (or that’s what we’re going to tell you).

Me: Realism. This as a great movie, on a number of unexpected levels. It’s like expecting a massage with a happy ending and getting a blowjob from a PhD with a perfect rack and no gag reflex. How did you decide what to write about?

Mouse McCoy: Everything that happened to the SEALs in this movie is based on someone in real life. Everything.

This wasn’t just someone getting shot, or wounded. There is a powerful scene involving one SEAL’s wife. They wrote it the way they did after talking to a couple of SEALs actual wives about how they deal with saying goodbye at the beginning of a deployment. Some of the SEALs were unaware of it until they screened the finished movie.  There’s another scene I won’t joke about. It’s based on the supreme valor of PO2 Michael Monsoor. The funeral wasn’t as hard to watch as some of the real military funerals has had to attend (our crew has lost some of their own) but it was close. God keep you, Mike.

Me: A lot of people were butt-hurt over the decision to use active duty SEALs. Some said they’d sold out, others that you were exploiting the recent publicity the teams have received. Some of those are just dickheads of course, but others bring up some valid points. We talked to some of the guys from Team 1 and  5; most were okay with it. Others were not. What would you say to that?

Scott Waugh: We…spent six months with the Teams initially, still intending to use actors. Then…talking with Chief Dave…the revelation came when talking to him, a really incredibly funny guy. The complexity of this character is really the fucking antithesis of Hollywood. We gotta cast the real guys. Initially they turned us down…took four months to get all of them to agree. We told them, ‘This will give you a legacy, so people will understand your community, not outsiders trying to project onto you.’ They finally came ‘round, but only after….we guaranteed to focus on the brotherhood and sacrifice, to do it right. Sure, we got lucky after Bin Laden was killed, but this was planned and filmed long before that.

Breach-Bang-Clear’s Richard Kilgore at Coronado

Me: Was it any different working outside the Hollywood mainstream? I mean, you didn’t have to work with any of the real outspoken liberal dipshits and hippies. Were there any other advantages?

Mouse McCoy: This truly defined independent filmmaking. Much of the success was because we weren’t bridled.

Scott: Can you imagine getting bonded for this movie?

Kurt Johnstad: [They’d be like] What do you mean, live fire?

Mouse McCoy:There is a visceral connectivity of live fire. There was a real cost of failure.

Kurt: Plus the tracers look bitchin’ when it’s real.

Me: Outfuckingstanding. I gotta tell you, when I learned most of those scenes were shot using live fire, I was happier than a prom queen with a bag full of dicks, I’m not gonna lie.

All: Long, awkward silence.

Me: Too much?

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The ‘heaviest’ moment of the movie was, according to McCoy, when they filmed a faux deployment departure on the tarmac, where the team starts walking toward an aircraft. The emotional recall of them walking away was apparently very powerful stuff—all the kids (their real kids, mind you) started crying, and then some of the wives.  Anyone that has ever had to deploy and leave their loved ones behind can certainly identify with that.

McCoy: I asked them if we’d gone to far but they said we were good to go, and to press.

Anyway, after that they quit taking my questions for some reason. Plus two cross-dressing guys holding hands in the row behind me were muttering under their breath about me.

But I digress.

The music was well done, the cinematography superb and I really liked the fact that they didn’t go with the most recent incarnation of the prototypical villain. What used to be a black clad white guy chortling and twirling his mustache is now an Arab, Pashtun or the like in a ZZ Top beard with an AK. They intentionally stayed away from those stereotypes.

Speaking of the cinematography, by the way, this was a massive breakthrough in filmmaking. It was filmed almost entirely in 5D. It’s hard to grasp the immense difference going from a 60lb camera to some little bitty 5Ds and a couple of POV cameras on helmets and weapons, at least until you see it on the screen.

The script and writing were good, though much of the dialogue was extemporaneous. According to the writers, the SEALs were pretty much allowed to come up with their own banter and conversation as long as they got the story to where it needed to go.

There are only three things that would make this movie any better. 1. Putting Betty White in it somewhere, 2. Learning Michael Shenk and Bill Maher both shit themselves into hypovolumic shock eating bad licorice and moldy popcorn while watching it and nearly died, or 3. Finding out there’s a four hour directors cut that includes a joint operation with PJs, TACPs and SF guys.

If you hadn’t already planned on doing so, or if you had any doubts about it. POOF let them begone. This is a movie is well worth your time and money, written on a fo

undation provided by the deeds, sacrifice and valor of NSW personnel in a number of AORs over the last 11 years. You are resoundingly cleared hot to get your ass up and go see it.

Swingin’ Dick Clear!


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