I finally got to see Act of Valor the other day. This is the Navy Seal action film that stars actual Navy Seals. It’s good! An exciting action yarn with a very intense feel to it. The acting, of course, isn’t first rate, but it’s not bad at all and doesn’t get in the way of the story. Arnold Schwarzenegger was not exactly Laurence Olivier either. Great acting is not what action films are about.
Now, obviously, the film is patriotic and has a very powerful warrior ethos — that’s part of the pleasure of it, and you have to get your John Wayne on to fully enjoy it. This is no problem for me because I’ve got my John Wayne stuck on with KrazyGlue but I imagine there are some people who have to be in the proper mood. Whatever. The point is, the movie does what it sets out to do, and fans of cool, all-American action movies (like me) will definitely enjoy it.
Okay, so after I watched the film I went on Rotten Tomatoes and checked out the reviews. Viewers gave the film 75% positive ratings. Professional critics gave it 25%.
What??? Three fourths of the people who watch this movie like it, but only one fourth of the critics say it’s any good? How does that make sense? I mean, what is the point of a movie critic anyway? He has a job, right? His job is to tell you whether you’ll like the film or not, no? He’s supposed to tell you whether to plunk down your money for it. Otherwise, who cares what his opinion is?
Sure, we all understand that a critic might see a film and have aesthetic or personal objections, but shouldn’t he also have an awareness of what you, his readers, the reason his job exists, might think? Couldn’t he say, “Look, this fails as a work of art in my opinion, but lovers of hard-hitting action will enjoy it?” Couldn’t he say, “Hey, I prefer romantic comedies where guys sheepishly apologize to their girlfriends but if you, on the other hand, have testicles, you might like this instead?” Couldn’t he say, “You know, I’m a wet noodle of a leftist anti-American, but real men who love their country might be edified to watch a story about the tough guys who protect their freedoms?” Because, of course, that was the big objection the Tomato critics had to Act of Valor. Any number of them called it “propaganda.” Right. A piece of anti-American, anti-military, dishonest and poorly written horse wallop like “Valley of Elah,” won 72% praise from these knuckleheads, but a patriotic film is perforce propaganda.
A critic who hasn’t got the judgement or wisdom or simple frankness to tell you whether or not you’ll like a film regardless of his personal opinions should do something else for a living. Same goes for a journalist who can’t cover a story without tainting it with his personal politics. They are wasting skin that could be used to make an honest human being.
Related: See Roger L. Simon’s take: