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‘A Good Man in Africa’ (R)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 09, 1994

The imposing Sean Connery lends an undeserved dignity to "A Good Man in Africa," an otherwise unpleasant and cringe-worthy cinematic botch of William Boyd's 1981 novel about the misadventures of British diplomats in a newly independent West African nation. Connery heads a cast of such similarly squandered talents as Diana Rigg, Louis Gossett Jr., John Lithgow, Colin Friels and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer.

Friels plays an obsequious and shallow British diplomat aptly named Morgan Leafy, who sums up his inglorious career as "three years in Africa and no sign of a tan."

The worst sins of colonial arrogance, bigotry and insensitivity are personified by Friels and his superior, Ambassador Fanshawe, played by Lithgow with a flamboyantly phony British accent.

Though it's wonderful to see Diana Rigg again, she stoops here to play Lithgow's wife Chloe, who is thrown into an undignified dither over a glimpse of Friels's sexual attributes.

The convoluted story includes Friels's clandestine affair with an African woman, an unnecessarily prolonged sequence about his bout of venereal disease, a set piece about a native woman struck by lightning, and a tangle of political corruption, philandering and blackmail.

While this stuff is clearly intended to be amusing and satirical, under the heavy hands of director Bruce Beresford, it's more often just embarrassing.

Set at Christmastime, "A Good Man" becomes a sort of African "A Christmas Carol," concerning the redemption of the Scrooge-like Friels through the sterling moral example of the formidable Dr. Morgan (Connery), the "good man" of the title, who has been working in Africa for 23 years.

Connery makes only a few brief appearances in the film, mainly to brusquely disapprove of Friels's beastly behavior, but they are the most vivid moments in a film that otherwise merits a caution: Stay out of this "Africa."

A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA (R) — Contains nudity, stupidity and sexual situations.

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