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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The A-Team ("Pros and Cons", 1983; 2010)

Joe Carnahan's witless update of The A-Team is a sad mistake, a badly-acted film of needless spectacle and inconsequentia, held together by a patchwork of purposeless explosions. The filmmakers evidently think us morons, and hope we won't wonder why Cologne cathedral and the American Embassy are located in Frankfurt. Do they really expect us to believe that you can print off a billion dollars with a dozen metal printing plates? That a tank can fall 20,000 feet into a lake and drive out? That a cargo ship can get from the eastern Atlantic to Los Angeles in less than two days?

A library book provides the convoluted device to free impresario Hannibal from the stockade. A deus ex machina is provided in the form of a fumus ex libro - his weekend's reading has a cigar hidden in the spine. It's laced with poison, so that the colonel can mimic death, escape the flames of the prison crematorium, steal a technician's coat, and walk straight out. Every American soldier in the film knows Hannibal on sight, except for those who have held him in captivity for six months.

The writer of this rubbish probably wasn't aware that, coincidentally, the only library book to feature in the television series was also used in a prison-bust-out story. In an early episode Hannibal, BA, and Murdock get themselves thrown into a rural slammer to save one of BA's pals from a vicious warden. Face pretends to be an Ivy League professor sent by the US Senate to investigate prison policy. The book, with Face's picture somehow transposed onto the dust-jacket, is his calling card. Yes, this is also implausible and not done particularly well (strangely for a library book, it lacks labels and stamps), but the acting is charming, the scripting is clever, the story proceeds along a clear, even thread, and the A-Team save the day without resorting to high-end pyrotechnics, moral flim-flam, or ladles of irony.

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