(In theaters, March 2012) Anyone who thinks that Hollywood is usually in the business of promoting the American military-entertainment complex may want to get off their high horses for a moment and have a look at Act of Valor, because for once this is the real deal: An unabashed sloppy kiss to covert military operations, produced without subtlety, shame nor questioning of its premises. Few other films shown in theaters, after all, start with a featurette in which the directors explain that they felt compelled to cast real-life SEALs as lead actors, and willingly embed themselves with military units during production. And that’s not even discussing the end credits, in which country music plays over a montage of pure-Americana pictures of soldiers, firefighters, families, flags and such. Story-wise, Act of Valor is either about American soldiers either being good family men or killing terrorists, in-between action sequences featuring real SEALs doing real-SEALs things. The result feels a lot like a movie made for a specialty audience, much like the religious-themed films that pop up in limited release from time to time. As you may expect during discussions between true believers in America’s exceptional nature, there’s little need for subtlety, characterization or even good acting: The real-life-SEALs in the starring roles are charmingly earnest in the way they read their lines, but while they can enforce national policy by gunpoint, they’re not actors and they can’t save a script that seems proud to run clichés into the ground. Still, the point of Act of Valor isn’t a fine storytelling: It’s about brute-force action sequences and the promotion of American might as its basks against a backdrop of family, honor, freedom and other quasi-myths that make American feel better about themselves. Crazily enough, it works well at times: Some of the action sequences are shot with energy (the gunboat sequence is good –although it could have been better without the over-editing) and at times, even with the coarse appeal to symbolism, it’s almost easy to forget that as a Canadian, I’m being asked to cheer for people who wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet in my head if ever they were told to. As a movie, Act of Valor is closer to a curiosity than to a success –but it’s an interesting artifact, and one that’s hard to dismiss in part due to its anti-cynical, plainly partisan outlook. At the very least it’s going to become a reference of sorts, for pure distilled pro-military propaganda on the big screen.