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‘Navy SEALs’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 20, 1990

"Navy SEALs" are Ninja Turtles without the shells. The faux amphibious superheroes take on a fanatic Arab terrorist group in this thriller based upon the missions of the clandestine commando group. A heady blend of beefcake, derring-do and jingoism, their adventure is not merely action-packed, but well-built to boot.

Led by top frogs Michael Biehn and Charlie Sheen, a highly trained team slips into a Middle Eastern seaport to rescue a Navy helicopter crew held by unfriendly fanatics. Hidden in the stronghold is a cache of American-made Stinger missiles -- the ultimate terrorist weapons, they are portable, hand-held and deadly. But the team hasn't time to both destroy the missiles and save the men, who have been badly used by the "rags."

Biehn, the cool one, and Sheen, the hot one, work out their differences as they attempt to locate the missiles with the help of a beautiful half-Lebanese journalist (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer). Attracted to both men and troubled by a terrorist attack on a passenger plane, she provides the answers that lead to a lollapalooza of a showdown in the rubble of Beirut.

"Navy SEALs" is explosively directed by Lewis Teague, a veteran of the wet movie "Alligator." Hardly a genius, but a man who knows his way around a war zone, Teague brings plenty of punch to the formulaic screenplay by former SEAL Chuck Pfarrer and screenwriter Gary Goldman.

Dressed up in their flippers and gunbelts, the cast members perform their rough-and-ready roles with the gusto of snowball-lobbing kids. Biehn, who was the android-tracker in "The Terminator," has one of the most compelling faces in Hollywood, and Sheen takes to his role like a yuppie to Evian water. Whalley-Kilmer, who played Christine Keeler in "Scandal," gives detailed analyses of Middle Eastern religious practices, by way of exposition. And when tragedy strikes, she is there to kiss Mr. Bad News away.

Familiar war movie themes prevail -- the firecracker Sheen must learn to control his lust for action, the cucumber-cool Biehn must cope with the consequences of his decisions. Like vintage war movies, "Navy SEALs" celebrates the manly art of battle and the notion that we are number one. Pass the ammunition.

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