Joe’s Blog

Navy Seals (1990)

October 10, 2012 2:12 am

Navy Seals

Stu-stu-stu-Studio Line

Even as a teenager, Navy Seals always had a whiff of fromage about it. Something about pairing a Oliver Stone’s favourite BratPacker (on an astonishing career turnaround following Platoon and Wall Street), with a man who only appears in good films when James Cameron is behind the camera. They posed on the video cover brandishing plastic-looking machine guns, looking like a pair of hair gel models in a photoshoot for The Face.

It certainly didn’t have the same allure to a young lad as say Commando or even a Chuck Norris punch-a-thon. In fact it looked a bit crap. Maybe because it is.

What was clearly designed to do for the Navy what Top Gun did for the Air Force, Navy Seals can’t even fluffs every opportunity to ape that films success. Swap volleyball for golf; substitute flying really fast jets with inflatable dinghys; change Kelly McGillis for Joanne Whalley.

Hicks from Aliens leads a crew of Seals round the world looking for a cardboard cut-out forrin villain who has acquired some stinger missiles. Or a bomb. Or something. It’s not important. They’re chasing a bad guy ‘raghead’ (as the film so politely refers to everyone from the Middle East), who’s name I forget as for most of the film he’s just a black and white photo occasionally flashed in front of us.

What IS important is that Charlie Sheen plays a thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent member of the crew. He’s professional, thorough, and always follows orders. Oh, no wait… that’s right, he’s a free-spirit, a hot-head, a joker who lives for the rush of the job. A “Maverick” , if you will.

Within the first 20 minutes we get all the character info we need. See Charlie leap from a moving car off a bridge, for a laugh! Gasp as he steals a bike, catches up with a tow truck that has taken his sports car away, and drives said car off the back of the tow truck into oncoming traffic! Guffaw as Sheen’s hot-headedness jeopardises a routine mission and allows the bad guy to escape because he fancied killing a few more ‘ragheads’.

Hicks plays Sheen’s best friend, but he’s also Sheen’s boss. Ooh, tension.  Also tagging along for the ride is one of Dirty Dozen-style, Guys-on-a-mission-movie collective of rag-tag ‘characters’. Except they forgot to give them any character. We’ve got Bill Paxton, wasted, but carrying the same wonderful moustache he sported in True Lies; President Palmer from 24 (who’s supposed to be getting married… uh-oh!); the lunkhead from Roxanne; the anti-semite from Porkys; and another piece of cardboard who’s only purpose seems to be to translate the gibbering rantings of the forrin villains.

That pretty much is all you need to know. What little plot there is, consists of Hicks trying to find out where the bad guy is by wining and dining Whalley’s investigative journalist (who’s also fighting off the affections of Sheen, who only wants her because Hicks has her. Great mate that he is). It seems odd that in the opening action scene, Hicks tells a rescued hostage “You don’t have to thank us because we don’t exist”, as if the Seals are some covert, secret organisation. Yet just 15 minutes later, he’s taking a journalist round their training centre (and having his men fire machine guns at her for a laugh).

The boys go off on various missions, to various ‘shit-holes’, always coming back empty handed because the film still has some time to go. And then some. For a stupid 80s actioner, this is a ridiculously tedious two hours. Decades pass between the action, and when it does arrive, it’s appallingly directed and edited. You have little idea what’s going on, and can only differentiate the good guys from the bad guys because the bad guys all have beards.

Lewis Teague was one of those directors whose career was finished as soon as Big Ben struck midnight on 31st December 1989. A good director given the right material (the excellent Alligator, Cujo, the cheesy but fun Wedlock), he somehow found himself directing The Jewel of the Nile, and found himself tagged an action director from then on, but never with the budget or talent that he had there.

Navy Seals could have easily been a Chuck Norris-starring Cannon Group film, yet despite having a bigger budget than those, it comes off as cheap and dull. Call of Duty fans may enjoy the final assault on the bad guy, but for the most part it offers little in the way of entertainment beyond a few jaw-dropping bad lines of dialogue, and who wants to sit through two hours of tripe just to hear Charlie Sheen say “You gotta stick it out there and not be afraid to get it cut off, that’s what I always say.”

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