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Review: The A-Team and Micmacs

By January 1, 2011No Comments

The A-Team posterLast 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.

Micmacs posterA 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 Piñón 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.