I saw the A-Team movie today. I needed some flat-out escapism after Synod and the summer season offered plenty of choices, but this movie was at the best time for me so I grabbed my ticket and sat down. For the most part it delivered what I wanted. It was fun. It was ridiculous. I actually chuckled aloud in boyish glee at the parachuting tank scene. So I got my money’s worth.
But one thing in the film begs to be called out for sheer idiocy. B.A. Baracus experiences a vague conversion while he is in prison and talks about being unwilling (unable?) to kill. This sets up his character’s shallow character arc in which he goes from badass Army Ranger to whiny pacifist to badass mercenary outlaw. The entire thing is set up as a foregone conclusion that he will remember that he is a meathead whose purpose in life is killing badguys at the dramatic climax. His transformation is symbolized by his mohawk, which he shuns for the 2nd act of the movie in his pacifist stage, but is back for the thrilling reveal when he murders the villain. Like Samson his mojo is in his hair.
The worst moment in this bad idea of a subplot is when he trades Gandhi quotes with Colonel Hannibal. Baracus asks Hannibal if he knows who said, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” Hannibal does of course and shoots back, but Gandhi also said, “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” He then uses that quote to urge Baracus to get back to killing people, because that is what Gandhi would do. Obviously.
It’s depressingly ironic that Gandhi would be so badly misused. Hannibal’s quote was cut off. It continues, “Violence is any day preferable to impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.” Gandhi then of course went about demonstrating in his life the conclusive superiority of non-violence to violence, which is the opposite of impotence and cowardice which is what is implied about Baracus during his pacifist phase in the movie.
The movie thoroughly fails to grasp Satya-Graha, Gandhi, or non-violence, which I suppose is fine for a summer blockbuster. I went in there looking for explosions and I found them. I just wish they hadn’t thrust this clumsy, ugly sub-plot in the middle.
The completion of the ironic reversal is in the ending of the movie. The A-Team fails to get their name cleared and their elaborate scheme is completely undone in a matter of moments by corrupt government agents. They find themselves once more fugitives, arguably worse off than they were before, yet the movie shows no hint of awareness that the quote Baracus pulled from Gandhi had actually been prophecy. “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” Everything Baracus gained by going back to his violent ways was actually a loss in disguise, and it will continue that way until he realizes that violence is nothing more than a slightly higher form of impotence. Like the movie, violence is all flash and no substance.