Navy Seals (1990) it’s like Watching a “Top Gun” / “G.I. Joe” movie yet, Underappreciated!
With all the buzz regarding the Gaza conflict, it’s no surprise that Amazon Prime Video added 1990's Navy Seals as a recommendation and to be honest, it's been ages since I last saw this military action-thriller
Directed by Lewis Teague, this titular movie follows the exploits of an elite team of search and rescue specialists as they embark on a top-secret mission to prevent terrorists from obtaining deadly Stinger missiles with an all-star cast that easily predates the Expendables.
The main synopsis is when the Navy Spec Ops team is sent on a rescue mission to the Middle East, terrorist Ben Shaheed and Sully Erna lookalike (Nicholas Kadi) has acquired stinger missiles on the black market causing a deadly chain of events, so it's up to the Sea, Air, and Land intervention unit to stop him, but at what cost? During the introductory action sequence, the SEALs overlook two important targets, the stinger missiles which were thought to have been destroyed, and Shaheed who posed as a "captive" and then has his organization Al Shuhadah commit their own personal jihad. This omission during the mission, serves as this catalyst for what is yet to occur, and this is what drives the plot narrative forward when our "Real American Heroes " attempt to correct the mistakes that were made.
Lt. Dale Hawkins (Charlie Sheen) and Lt. James Curran (Michael Biehn) consult with a half Lebanese reporter Claire, who is an expert on Shaheed and in some ways sympathize with his motives but when he plans to violently derail regional treaty talks,she has a change of heart the special operations forces make their move. Rounding out the rest of the cast is the late great Bill Paxton who makes a limited appearance as Night Spotter Dane with porn stache in tow, and Rick Rossovich as Leary you know it's an 80's Orion production when you have the latter three actors who starred in 1984's The Terminator now having this "reunion" in Navy Seals! OSC William "Billy" Graham played by Dennis Haysbert serves as the team’s "Chief" however, he's torn between his commitment to his fiancée Jolena and his loyalties towards the team, “God and country” and so on.
Aside from the obvious Top Gun comparisons, watching Navy seals brings to mind familiarity to G.I. Joe the Movie without the sci fi elements, bizarre villains or Ninjas. Here you have a highly trained unit with Haysbert resembling Stalker, and pre-coked pre-"Tiger Blood" Charlie Sheen pulling a "Lt. Falcon" that causes a tragic outcome and an opportunity for redemption. While Shaheed is featured as the main baddie in this movie, there were slight mention of his motive for revenge, which stems the bombing of their homes by Navy ships and warplanes attacks in the middle east where innocent men, women and children were killed. Unfortunately, this “cause and effect” sub narrative was scrapped in favor of Curran's shoehorned romantic angle with Joanne Whatley which felt a bit shoehorned. From what I learned there were several script rewrites including (uncredited) contributions from Sheen and Biehn. One involves a fight between Hawkins and Curran with Hawkins, being a proficient martial artist while Curran is an accomplished boxer.
Personally, I would have loved to have seen some close quarter combat scenes, which demonstrates what the SEAL Team is capable of besides firing MP4 SMGs. This was yet, another missed opportunity in my not so humble opinion.But as a consolation we get to see what the SEALs are trained for. i.e. the HALO jump, underwater maneuvers, and infiltration tactics, so it's not that disappointing, in fact, for the most part, I enjoyed it. The film has a distinct charm and was one of the very last films from the eighties as it often shows.
That said, Navy Seals, at times fails to take itself too seriously. Aside from a few dramatic undertones and pathos there were a few laughs to be had, especially when it came to Sheen's overbearing Hawkins who channel's "Maverick" but with politically incorrect comments and reckless behavior that makes him the go-to comedy relief.
Charlie Sheen would’ve been a major action star had his career took a different turn butI can see why he was cast as the lead in the satirical comedy Hot Shots. Perhaps he was more comfortable with comedy, well, his batshit antics was laughter fodder so there you go. Whalley's character adds a humanizing element to the film, providing a glimpse into the perspective of civilians caught up in the dangerous world of military operations however, her role was squandered for obvious reasons.
The pacing is slightly uneven, but things pay off during the final act as the Seals are outnumbered and are faced with a dire situation that tests their resolve.
Despite a key component element that was missing from the storyline and janky pacing, which contributed to unfavorable reviews and poor box office reception, Navy Seals is still good albeit squandered opportunity. While it looks like a US Navy recruitment tool, the story isn't heavy handed or overly jingoistic like Rambo First Blood pt. 2. The stuntmen gave their all when accomplishing daring feats be it crashing down a sky window, performing HALO jumps or simply jumping off a bridge. ALL this, way before the advent of green screen CGI.
Sylvester Levay (Airwolf) brings a bit of tension with his synth 80's score reminiscent to a certain movie with "jets!" Speaking of which, fans of Top Gun can easily identify a few tropes be it the dude bro camaraderie, the all too familiar redemption arc and the outro song Shadows, by Mr. Big and co written by Top Gun's Gorgio Moroder,while easily comparable to Kenny Loggings' "Danger Zone", "Shadows" has more of a dynamic range than the 1986 chart topper. The Golf montage with Bon Jovi’s “Boys are back in Town” cover, was a slight homage to Top Gun’s Volleyball scene which also featured Rick Rossovich. (who can forget Slider’s silly pose?) The action sequences are pre-Michael Bay and it’s of no coincidence that Metal Gear poster boy Biehn was cast in 1996's The Rock as Commander Charles Anderson. When peeling the layers underneath, Navy Seals could have been so much more, but as it stands, it’s like watching a G.I. Joe slash Top Gun hybrid, with just a dash of Call of Duty.
But overall, this underrated gem serves as an open love letter to those action films of old!