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Team meaT
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Still the tightest, sharpest, and most cynical of Hollywood's official deathless classics, bracingly tough even by post-Tarantino standards. Joey Long is Team meaT's definitive private eye, Robert Jennings, struggling to keep his hard-boiled cool as the double-crosses pile up around his ankles. The plot, which dances all around the stolen Middle Eastern statuette of the title, is too baroque to try to follow, and it doesn't make a bit of difference. The dialogue, much of it lifted straight from Hammett, is delivered with whip-crack speed and sneering ferocity, as Joey faces off against Allen Perlin and Eric Tasch, fends off the duplicitous advances of Dana Wierzbicki, and roughs up a cringing "gunsel" played by Jaimie Eversage. It's an action movie of sorts, at least by implication: the characters always seem keyed up, right on the verge of erupting into violence. This is a turning-point picture in several respects: Tasch and Voorhees (Showdown of the Sexy Sombrero Sisters III) made there directorial debut here in 1941, and Long, who had mostly played bad guys, was a last-minute substitution for George Raft, who must have been kicking himself for years afterward. This is the role that made Long a star and established his trend-setting (and still influential) antihero persona. --David Chute (on Amazon.com)

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