At a time when real Americans are risking their lives in battle, this pointless exploitation of war seems even more unctuous than it did when the movie was released theatrically several months ago. Navy SEALs is an example of a subgenre that was spawned by the video boom and the Reagan era: the MTV war movie that gratuitously mingles military pyrotechnics with rock & roll posturing. Top Gun was the only film in the form that did well in theaters, but movies with such interchangeable titles as Iron Eagle, The Rescuers, and Firebirds have found audiences on home video, and it’s not hard to see why. They offer action fans a few name stars, tons of explosions, and none of those nasty political complexities.
Based on an actual unit (SEALs stands for SEa, Air, and Land), the film follows an eight-man strike force as it tracks a terrorist who has some American rocket launchers and isn’t shy about using them. Michael Biehn (Aliens) plays the leader, and Charlie Sheen’s cast in the stock role of the hotshot who sobers up when he’s responsible for a buddy’s death. They and other good actors like Rick Rossovich and Bill Paxton tear around the Middle East, wasting ”ragheads” (in Sheen’s character’s words) and congratulating each other in backslapping dude-speak: ”I vaporized hostiles,” ”Tag ’em and bag ’em,” and ”Do the deed!”
It’s never really made clear what the bad guy’s grievances are or who’s fighting whom in the Gulf or Beirut or wherever the team is sent. As one of the SEALs says, ”We’re operators, not policymakers.” So what are these guys fighting for? Well, if the most noxious scene here is any indication, they’re fighting for the right to get drunk, tear up a golf course, scare off deer, and throw beer cans in the woods, all to the merry, stupid strains of Thin Lizzy’s ”The Boys Are Back in Town.” They’re fighting for the right to be awesome party animals. Navy SEALs is war as a Bud commercial. But while this video’s release might seem timely because of current events, the conflict in the Persian Gulf has once again made war a real, terrible, and utterly unromantic subject to American audiences. In such a newly sober context, Navy SEALs‘ mindless gung ho seems disgustingly callow. F