Last week your faithful correspondent reviewed a big budget Hollywood film, based on a beloved television series, featuring four friends who went to a foreign land with no knowledge or empathy for the inhabitants and continued to live their self-serving, smug, lives blind to the reality surrounding them. This week, I’m going to do it all over again and the only difference is that I really hated Sex and the City 2 and actually quite enjoyed The A-Team.
Now this realisation is giving me some pause. They are fundamentally the same film. Why should I react so strongly against one and so… benignly to the other? Is it just a matter of gender? Am I hard-wired to enjoy the male-bonding, explosions and gags in the way that female viewers are hard-wired to enjoy the shoes and frocks in SATC2? Christ, I hope not. I’d better find some good reasons for enjoying The A-Team before I out myself as a reviewer who can’t rise above his gender or class and there’s enough of those around already.
So, what gives? The reliable Liam Neeson plays the George Peppard role, Hannibal Smith, leader of a rogue bunch of Army Rangers. Evidently, they are another kind of special forces like the SEALS or the Green Berets. His team are about to leave a peacefully subdued Iraq when he gets word of one more mission — rescuing a billion dollars in counterfeit money and the printing plates that were used to produce them.
When the A-Team deliver the goods, they are arrested and court-martialed, betrayed by someone much higher up the chain of command. The money is destroyed but the plates are stolen. Smith and the rest (“Face”, Bradley Cooper; “B.A. Baracus”, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and “Murdock”, District 9’s Sharlto Copley) have to get out of jail — easy — recover the plates — easy — and clear their names and reputations — much harder.
The A-Team is directed and co-written by Joe Carnahan, a red-blooded director who made his name with the 2002 low-budget cop thriller Narc which starred Ray Liotta. Here, he is very ably abetted by editing team Roger Barton and Jim May who between them have produced a confident (but not arrogant) and fundamentally amiable romp that never loses sight of its reason for existence. I laughed out loud a few times and I haven’t done that for ages.
A few weeks ago The Film Archive played a beaten-up but very welcome 35mm print of Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Brazil. I was minded of that while watching Micmacs, the new film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, Amélie) who is like a French version of Gilliam, except that he actually gets films made. Even the lead character’s name, Bazil, seems to bring to mind the earlier film. Bazil, played by gifted comedian Dany Boon, is hit in the head by a stray bullet during a drive-by. It’s too risky to try and remove it so he has to live with the lead lodged in his head. Unemployable, he finds a bunch of other misfits and oddballs (including Jeunet favourite Dominique Pinon and extraordinary contortionist Julie Ferrier) and they insist on helping him find a get his revenge on the armaments manufacturers who made the bullet he lives with and the land-mine that killed his father.
Perpetually inventive and amusing but with a rod of angry steel at its core, Micmacs couldn’t be any more anti-war than if John Lennon had made it, and yet it comes across as much more entertaining and far less polemical than it might have been in less confident hands.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 16 June, 2010.