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Army Green Beret Nate Boyer Pens, Produces, and Stars in Underbaked Directorial Debut

Jan 20, 2023

Home Movie Reviews MVP Review: Army Green Beret Nate Boyer Pens & Stars In Underbaked Directorial Debut

MVP lacks the adequate storytelling it needs to compel viewers to care beyond its 112-minute runtime.

Nate Boyer in MVP

Merging Vets and Players (MVP) was created in 2015 by NFL insider and analyst Jay Glazer and Army Green Beret Nate Boyer to address the similar challenges combat veterans and former pro athletes face when the uniform comes off. For navigating the transition back to civilian life, the nonprofit organization aims to help by offering fitness sessions and peer-to-peer support. Boyer, who served for six years and multiple tours, brings to life the story of MVP’s creation, in which he serves as the writer, producer, lead actor, and director. While it’s clear the film acts as an advertising campaign for the organization, MVP lacks the adequate storytelling it needs to compel viewers to care beyond its 112-minute runtime.
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Based on the true story of the formation of Merging Vets & Players, MVP showcases the importance of personal development and mental health by showing vets and retired athletes that they are never alone. The story follows former NFL player Will Phillips (Mo McRae) as he struggles to define his new purpose after a forceful retirement from the league. At his lowest point, Phillips meets Zephyr (Nate Boyer), a homeless veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The two eventually find solace in each other’s stories, feeling validated for their inability to calibrate back to being civilians. And with the “glory days” long behind them, the two men bond in search of newfound purposes.

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On paper, MVP contains a decent enough foundation it would need to be a successful feature. There’s a respectable script, a good cast, and an underlying emotional undertone that is capable of sneaking up on viewers. However, the execution and technical weaknesses — specifically with respect to Boyer’s direction — create problems that are far too obvious to ignore. The story takes a while to find its footing, which is largely due to editing and pacing issues. The transitions between Will and Zephyr’s separate stories are rarely smooth enough to keep the storytelling consistent. What’s more, Will’s story just isn’t as compelling as Zephyr’s, and the time spent between the two separately does the film no justice.

One might be able to look past the pacing issues simply because this is an important story to tell. However, the script feels underbaked when it comes to showcasing the build-up to MVP’s establishment and how impactful it is for veterans. Early on, the script spends a great deal of time emphasizing PTSD and homelessness among veterans. It would have been a great opportunity to discuss the problems with the Veterans Affairs (VA) organization, the truth behind their lack of support for veterans, and how they end up in these desperate situations. Excluding important information that would strengthen the reason behind MVP’s existence (along with the film itself) feels, in essence, like an enormous missed opportunity, especially when it assumes the audience is already privy to this information.

Those missed opportunities aside, MVP feels like a long advertisement for its namesake organization. At the end of the day, this element matters very little considering Boyer’s heart is in the right place. But what holds his feature debut back are some of the directorial choices that don’t offer much to the storytelling and end up hurting the feature altogether, including prolonged close-ups of himself and over-extended scenes long after confrontations. These moments tend to linger, and it often comes off as self-indulgent instead of adding something profound to the storytelling. Whatever the reason for these decisions, Boyer’s eye for scoping out beautiful landscapes and scene compositions is certainly there, but it wouldn’t hurt to implement outside perspective.

In hindsight, MVP is the kind of film that could definitely work for audiences. What it lacks in technical achievement, it undoubtedly makes up with heart. Though Boyer doesn’t necessarily hit the ball out of the park with his debut due to some odd choices that negatively impact the story structure, it’s easy to see why he chose this as his first project. His natural talent for bringing in a heartwarming disposition would do well in a documentary format. But whatever he decides to do next, it’ll surely be worth a watch.

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MVP releases in limited theaters on November 11. The film is 112 minutes long and Rated TV-14.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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