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‘Navy SEALs’ (R)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 20, 1990

IN "Navy SEALs," Charlie Sheen and Michael "Terminator" Biehn lead an elite cadre of male models into terrorist territory for a series of sensational shoot-'em-ups on land and at sea. It's "Top Gun" with water -- call it "Squirt Gun."

The real Navy SEALs were formed in 1962 by President Kennedy. An amphibious clandestine killing force, America's Secret Weapon, they are trained to be expert in all kinds of killing -- on sea, air or land, hence "SEAL."

The fantasy version of the SEAL squadron -- "The Dirty Dozen" with styling gel -- is called in to dispatch some generic Arab terrorists, which it does, no sweat. But they inadvertently let the biggest bad guy go, and because they are pressed for time, neglect to blow up a cache of stolen U.S. hand-held Stinger guided missiles. So, after disdainfully suffering the indignity and bumbling of standard military intelligence, the SEALs are allowed to go back in and do it right.

Sheen is the arrogant company hot dog, Biehn the equally arrogant fair-haired boy. Of course, Sheen blows it big time, and has to redeem his recklessness by film's end. We never get to know the other Kute Killers in this boys club very well -- maybe that's so we won't miss them when they're goners.

Women take note: It's a guy thing, you wouldn't understand. The SEALs don't have time for love -- a would-be bride is left at the altar when her SEAL fiance's beeper goes off during her walk down the aisle -- but there's plenty of time for male bonding, locker-room talk, a golfing montage and Bud and Pepsi promotion. Sheen and Biehn get involved in a romantic duel of sorts over a Lebanese-American journalist (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), but then, she has important inside information.

It would be unfair to say the one-liner-loaded script sounds as if it were ripped from a comic book. It sounds as if it were ripped from a coloring book. Still, filmed and edited like a two-hour "Not just a job" ad and loaded with high-tech weaponry, secret code words, neat stunts and nearly nonstop blowups, blood and guts, "Navy SEALs" is an effective, adrenaline-injecting summer action flick that will leave you clenching your teeth and hating The Enemy in spite of yourself. Like a real Navy SEAL, it does what it's supposed to do and gets out of there quickly, and doesn't remain in your memory for long.

A group of former Navy SEALs from the original '62 group sat behind me at a preview screening and had a high time loudly identifying weapons and explosives. They found a few flaws in some technical areas: Some of the splash landings were fudged, and there was apparently "not enough killing with knives." But they seemed to find the movie's wisecracking, hard-guy attitude authentic and enjoyed the rush of memories that came flooding back.

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