Navy SEALs

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer (Full Frame, Dolby Digital 2.0)
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1990
Running Time 108:43 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (53:41)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 4 Director Lewis Teague

Fox Home Video
Starring Charlie Sheen
Michael Biehn
Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
Rick Rossovich
Cyril O'Reilly
Bill Paxton
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $39.95 Music Sylvester Levay
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.60:1 (Measured)
16x9 Enhancement
16x9No.jpg (4709 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    After the box office success of Top Gun, which was a lovely little star vehicle in spite of the fact that its lead actor is actually too short to qualify for the naval aviation program, a series of films were made with the same militaristic, pro-American slant in the hopes of cashing in on what was a winning formula. Indeed, there is nothing that American audiences love more than congratulating themselves on the technical superiority of their weaponry, in spite of the fact that what they spend in a month on said weaponry could fund public health care for about a year. This genre of American self-congratulation has had some interesting entries, with Days Of Thunder and Fire Birds being the most prominent examples, as well as a few which didn't quite fare so well, such as Navy SEALs. The name SEAL, being that of the US Navy's elite commando unit, is an acronym for SEa, Air, Land, which means that the film has no specific location to base the self-congratulation in, unlike the aforementioned examples. This gives the film a somewhat disjointed feel, especially for the simpletons at which this genre explicitly aims: after all, how can you root for the Americans when all you can see is a bunch of men running around with machine guns? Grossing just over twenty-five million dollars at the American box office, the film obviously wasn't a big hit anywhere, and can be forgotten quite easily just like the rest of the American self-congratulation genre. Although parts of the film are set in Beirut, the production team didn't set foot outside of America, figuring that one messed-up looking set of ruins is just as good as any other.

    Essentially, this film's plot (yes, there is one) revolves around a Navy SEAL unit under the command of Lieutenant James Curran (Michael Biehn), which also includes Ensign Dale Hawkins (Charlie Sheen), and a sniper known only as Dane (Bill Paxton). During a mission to rescue an air crew from Middle Eastern terrorists, the team discovers evidence that the terrorists have somehow come into possession of high-tech weaponry. From then on, it's pretty much a by-the-numbers film as Curran and his unit track down the weaponry and blow things up. One problem with this film is that Hawkins would not have completed SEAL training with his "lone wolf" attitude, as SEALs are trained in such a manner as to promote co-operation. Anyone who has any inkling of how SEAL training works, or indeed any type of militia training, is going to have a slight problem suspending disbelief with this film. The predictability and cliché factors of this film cut down its long-term replayability a lot, and noted film critic Leonard Maltin is right when he states that G.I. Joe-level action is the name of the game here. He's also very correct when he states that Charlie Sheen's character operates on the same maturity level as Dennis The Menace, which further impedes the suspension of disbelief.

    Normally, I enjoy a good escapist thrill ride as much as the next man, but the essential problem with Navy SEALs and the genre it belongs to is that these films seem to expect to be taken seriously with their pro-American chestbeating. What this film could have used was a more believable script, and tighter direction, as it really is quite beneath the primary actors as it stands. The one ingredient that separated Top Gun and Fire Birds from the rest of this pack is that the actors knew they were making high-budget turkeys and decided to have some fun with their roles. Navy SEALs seems to be taking itself so seriously that one has to really wonder what the actors and the director were smoking when they took up this project. Indeed, Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton should really have known better, having been in Aliens just a few years before this film began production. Charlie Sheen seems to be right in his element here, however, making another film to pay for a few weeks worth of whatever he happens to be sniffing at the time. All in all, if brainless action films that glorify war and make out America to be the great white hope of the world are your thing, then Navy SEALs will sit quite happily in your collection.

Transfer Quality


    The packaging states that the Navy SEALs transfer has been "enhanced for widescreen TVs". It is most definitely not enhanced to take advantage of the extra resolution offered by widescreen TVs, and it is in the wrong aspect ratio to boot.

    The transfer is presented in a measured aspect ratio of 1.60:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the original aspect ratio of this film is 1.85:1, and it also appears that some picture information has been removed to accomplish this ratio. While it doesn't look like anything important is missing, as the cinematography is distinctly average, I would still prefer a 16x9 Enhanced transfer in the proper aspect ratio.

    On top of these packaging errors and blatant disregards of the format's superior resolution, the transfer is distinctly average, with the sharpness varying from ordinary to excellent, although it is still good enough to make out when Lieutenant Curran is wearing Captain's bars at 24:08. The real problem with this transfer, in a nutshell, is ordinary shadow detail. Indeed, one shot of a helicopter's interior at 78:05 is so dark that most of the cast aren't even discernible, although the rest of the night-time shots are just barely detailed enough to make out which team is doing what. Film grain is also something of an issue in this transfer, with an exterior shot of a carrier at 19:10 showing enough grain to make me wonder whether this shot hadn't been sourced from a VHS cassette.

    The colour saturation can be described as being rather dull while oversaturated at the same time, with that lovely Days Of Our Lives look that most Hollywood productions abandoned in the mid-1980s being well-present in this presentation. This is not the fault of the transfer, however, and there is no colour bleeding or misregistration apparent.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed at any point in the film, with most of the film being transferred at a full ten megabits per second. Film-to-video artefacts were also not noticed during most of the feature, although the darkness and occasional softness of the transfer may have helped conceal an instance of aliasing here and there. Some telecine wobble is apparent during the opening credits, but it settles down before the credits are over. Film artefacts, however, are a real problem in this transfer, with copious amounts of black flecks appearing on the picture in most sequences. During a three-second shot at 82:10, the picture undergoes a dramatic change in contrast, and also becomes grainy, with film artefacts such as flecks and vertical scratches making the film look five times as old as it is.

    This disc is presented in RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapter 6 and 7 at 53:41. This layer change is not particularly disruptive, although it is quite noticeable.


    Just as the video transfer can be described as rather ordinary, the audio transfer is also quite ordinary, although not as problematic as the video. This DVD is presented with a choice of five languages, all of them in surround-encoded Dolby Digital 2.0: the original English dialogue, with dubs in French, German, Italian, and Spanish for good measure. I listened to the English and Spanish soundtracks, sampling the latter while taking another look at all the points in the video transfer where artefacts were noticed.

    The dialogue is normally clear and easy to understand, but occasionally becomes hard to hear during combat sequences, when the lead actors are attempting to communicate without being heard by other actors. Audio sync was not a noticeable problem at any point.

    The music is credited to one Sylvester Levay, but the more dominant half of the music in this film consists of contemporary numbers. Much of the score sounds as if it were recycled from Top Gun, although the film itself gives more opportunities to branch out with the music and try something different. In spite of this, the score overall left very little in the way of an impression upon me.

    The surround channel was in constant use to support ambient sounds such as radio communications, music, and crashing waves. Although there were no split or directional effects, the soundtrack made up for this by making constant use of the monaural surround channel. There was only one instance where I thought the soundtrack collapsed into mono, which is good going for a film that was originally presented in Dolby Stereo. The subwoofer was used quite frequently to support gunshots and explosions, all without being overly conspicuous.



    The menu is not enhanced in any manner, but is fairly easy to navigate.

Theatrical Trailer (1:50)

    The theatrical trailer is presented in Full Frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is obviously not 16x9 Enhanced. It is plagued by film artefacts and telecine wobble.

R4 vs R1

    Both the R4 and the R1 version appear to be fundamentally the same.


    Navy SEALs is a good movie for a Saturday night rental, but that's about it.

    The video quality is very ordinary, not 16x9 Enhanced, and not in the proper aspect ratio.

    The audio quality is good, considering that the film wasn't originally intended to be presented in Dolby Surround.

    The extras? Well, there is a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

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 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
October 17th, 2000 
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 4:3 mode, using S-video input
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer