Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Bond memes in Action Team

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too does the cultural environment abhor the absence of a Bond film. In the two-and-a-bit years since Spectre, we have been treated to various Bond-like or Bond-inspired secret agents on both the big and small screen. Recently, for instance, there has been Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Atomic Blonde, and trailers for Johnny English Strikes Again and The Spy Who Dumped Me are currently doing the rounds. I’ve also been enjoying Action Team, a six-part comedy written by Tom Davis, James De Frond and Nico Tatarowicz, that’s just finished its run on ITV2.
Action Team, in action

Action Team follows a unit of MI6 comprising leader Logan Mann, sniper Graham Hooper, Monica Lang, who has a particular set of skills, and a kid on work experience called Huxley. The team is up against a Russian evil mastermind, Vladimir Schevchenko, who heads a criminal organisation called Abacus, and is overseen by the head of operations, Ruth Brooks. There is also the necessary assortment of henchmen and fellow MI6 officers who are not quite what they seem. 

The series parodies tropes from the world of screen spies – the unit of Action Team perhaps owes more to Mission: Impossible than Bond – but James Bond is the key reference. Logan Mann (played by Tom Davis), clearly the Bond figure, is dynamic, in control, suave and knowledgeable (or he thinks he is) and arrives at any situation armed with a gun and a quip. There are gadgets (though no Q-like character), big, gratuitious explosions, car chases, Mann on top of a moving train, femme fatales, and globe-trotting adventure. Then there’s the inside of the MI6 building, which looks much like the inside of headquarters as portrayed in Skyfall and Spectre – open plan with arrays of computers and screens – and a freestanding glass prison cell, the sort that held Silva in Skyfall, for captured enemy agents.

As for the villains, Vladimir Schevchenko (also played by Tom Davis) looks like the lovechild of Dr Evil and a Russian Hell’s Angel. He is, as usual for spy villains, capricious, childlike (in that he likes toys and throws tantrums) and psychopathic. In one scene, and in the best Spectre tradition, Schevchenko leads a meeting of his criminal partners. One of his Abacus agents, who, appropriately for a No. 2, wears an eyepatch, wants to walk away, having fallen in love. Schenchenko appears to allow him to leave with good grace, then shoots him in the back. The whole sequence reminded me of the meetings in Goldfinger’s rumpus room and Zorin’s blimp, where those who wish to pull out of the evil scheme come to a sticky end. Schevchenko knows the evil lingo, too, at one point practising the phrase, ‘I’ve been expecting you, Mr Mann’.

The music accompanying the series has familiar Bondian notes, and the music that plays over the end credits has the distinct ring of the Skyfall theme song. 

The series is funny and crude, rather like a British, live action Archer. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Time for another series before Bond 25 hits the screen?

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