A Chat with Joe Carnahan, director of “The A-Team”

Writer-director Joe Carnahan is proud of his latest film, a beyond tongue-in-cheek 2010 remounting of the 1980’s TV favorite, “The A-Team.” Available on a brand new, extras-laden DVD and Blu-Ray edition, the actioner stars Liam Neeson as A-Team leader Hannibal Smith, with backing by Bradley Cooper as the suave “Faceman” Peck, Sharlto Copley as the mildly insane H.M. Murdock and mixed martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as the Mohawk-wearing B.A. Baracus.

Jessica Biel is also along for the ride as DCIS Sosa, Faceman’s by-the-book military investigator ex-girlfriend. The story, such as it is, is fully eclipsed by a mix of preposterous stunts and CGI heavy effects and a jackhammer sensibility that is, like it or not, proudly over the top and unashamedly silly.

A former maker of promotional films and videos for a Sacramento TV station, Carnahan’s first feature was 1998’s “Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane,” a crime-suspense black comedy that co-starred Carnahan as a desperate used car dealer getting in way over his head with some extremely dangerous characters. The film, low on finesse but big on Mamet-esque macho verbal energy, was notable enough to break through the enormous Tarantino-Guy-Ritchie fatigue that made making almost any kind of independent crime film a questionable proposition throughout the 1990s.

Carnahan’s 2002 studio debut was the grimly serious “Narc,” starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. Big on style and terribly unsubtle, the dark procedural nevertheless earned lots of good reviews. That was followed in 2007 by the all-star action black comedy, “Smokin’ Aces.” The grosses were higher, but the Rotten Tomatoes rating was much lower.

Joe Carnahan’s bombastic ways as a filmmaker are matched at times by what reads as a rather pugilistic verbal style when it comes to critics who dislike his style and reporters who harp on less than enormous grosses. As someone who is yet to be won over by any of his films — though “Blood, Guts” has its share of low-fi charms — I was a little concerned about meeting him.

Watching Carnahan introduce a number of clips from the Blu-Ray special features for “The A-Team,” however, he came across as much more of more a teddy bear than a grizzly. In our interview, he won me over with news about some long incubating projects, a bit of sincere sounding film geekiness, his clear interest in branching out creatively and, most importantly, the fact that he’s my only interview subject so far to admit to visiting our sister site Bullz-Eye — which, I’m sure, he looks at only for our thoughtful prose.

“I’m on the Internet far too much,” he admitted, adding cheerfully, “just looking through academic articles!”

Never let it be said that Joe Carnahan is lacking in manly virtues and/or vices.

Premium Hollywood: Speaking of manliness, there’s a line in “The A-Team”: “Overkill is underrated.”

Joe Carnahan: Yes.

PH: This seems like a pretty good watchword for your career and your approach to making movies.

JC: Right. I think I’ve been perhaps unduly typecast as a guy who likes to hyper-edit and so on. I certainly have a style, but this kind of thing will always cancel out [other things]. There was a five minute tracking shot in “Narc” that was nothing but Ray Liotta talking, but nobody ever mentions that stuff. Listen, it was certainly the call to arms for this movie, “Overkill is underrated.” I did it as a thesis, as a joke. It’s the aside to the audience that says that we know it’s a lot, we know it’s overblown and overinflated, that’s the point of this little bon-mot here, this little movie.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

Dial 3 for 3-D, or something

The news that Martin Scorsese will, as previously hinted, be filming “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” in 3-D could be cynically interpreted as simply a case of an artistic but shrewd director jumping on a popular bandwagon. However, I’m not really a cynic and to me it brings to mind the last time that a truly great director made a film in 3-D. With all due respect to James Cameron and his undoubted huge technical achievement with “Avatar,” that was when Alfred Hitchcock took up the huge challenge of shooting in three dimensions with 1954’s “Dial M for Murder.”

The trailer below doesn’t mention the process because, despite the enormous trouble taken to film it in three dimensions, by the time the thriller, an adaptation of a wildly successful play, came out interest was already waning in the process — probably largely due to sub-standard films generated by the 3-D fad (modern day executives take note). Therefore, “Dial M for Murder” was, for the most part, released “flat.” Nevertheless, check out the way Hitchcock uses the (extremely huge) camera and the care he takes with the art direction.

If that phone seems a bit odd to you, it’s because Hitchcock actually had, as per this TCM synopsis by Jeff Stafford, a giant dial constructed to get the exaggerated look he wanted. Mr. Hitchcock was prone to exaggeration and a perfectionist, but one who always had a reason. For example, here’s his note about the portrayal of the film’s main weapon:

This is nicely done but there wasn’t enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce – tasteless.

Someone has probably already said this, but Hitchcock wasn’t always tasteful, but he was never tasteless, if you follow me.

  

Related Posts