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Steven’s Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.8/10
(5 Reviews Total)
When it comes to adaptations, sometimes you pity the fool who knows the source material too well. I knew nothing about The A-Team outside of premise and having been thoroughly entertained by it, I applaud my own ignorance as it may well have been the difference-maker. Joe Carnahan’s movie version of the ’80s television classic aims to not merely challenge the bar for inventive sequences that end in kaboom, but to rocket launch it off its post. Those like myself who have the privilege of not being able measure this 21st Century “A-Team” against the spirit of its source material will have a much easier time enjoying it as the recklessly fun overkill that it is.
Liam Neeson (Hannibal), Bradley Cooper (Faceman), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (B.A Baracus) and Sharlto Copley (Murdock) star as an alpha unit of Iraq War covert ops specialists who as Jessica Biel’s character bluntly puts it, “specialize in the ridiculous.” Their chemistry acts as the glue of the film, keeping our attention and — with their carefree attitudes — forging that crucial viewer investment in their welfare. Expertly cast, each member of the foursome not only reaches a demographic, but also serves a purpose in the overall cohesiveness of the team.
Neeson adds the measure of seriousness to the film, that same gravitas that he provided to make Pierre Morel’s Taken a surprise success, which despite clashing with the cigar-and-a-smile image intended for Hannibal, anchors the goofy attitudes of the other three. The most impressive of the bunch is District 9 star Copley, whose batty character provides the only comic relief that accurately reflects the tone of the script: ludicrous. UFC star Jackson in the most iconic of the roles (having been originated by Mr. T) gives the role of B.A. some surprising softness despite mediocre acting chops. Add Cooper as the swagger and The A-Team rests easily upon a nucleus that makes the action more than a mere testosterone injection.
These personalities all come together in Mexico in the film’s opening scenes, a whirlwind sequence that sets the tone for the wickedly fun (albeit absurd) hi-jinx to follow. The rest of the action is set in motion in Iraq, where the gang is set up after successfully pulling of a covert job in Baghdad. They must then escape prison and then clear their names despite both the CIA and military trying to hunt them down and play them like puppets.
Moviegoers who have a tendency to pick apart the physics of an over-the-top action film will probably have some issues with the implausibility of The A-Team, but consider the alternative: stale, overused action sequences from every other action team film that has ever existed. Instead of another car chase, we get the team in a tank attached to only a parachute being attacked by military drone planes as it plummets toward the ground. Realism for originality is not a trade everyone will make, but it suits the style of The A-Team.
As he demonstrated with Smokin’ Aces, Carnahan knows how to make a fun film that tends to compensate for being shallow with one-of-a-kind style. Take away the overused sequence of having one character explain the plan and then intercut it with the plan being executed and a few fluffy lines of dialogue and he’s proved himself capable of delivering a blockbuster. Considering the script comes from himself, actor Brian Bloom and X-Men Origins: Wolverine writer Skip Woods, it manages to be creative and take care of its main characters despite the heavy doses of absurdity.
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Written by Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods, Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell (TV series)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley
Other Player Affinity Reviews
Julian thought: “The A-Team is meant to be a light, fun action film and that’s exactly what it is. The film surprisingly stays close to the nature of the series. Sure, it has much more of a serious action theme than the campy 1980s TV show, but there is still room for fun, over-the-top ridiculousness, like when a helicopter flies upside-down. Sure it’s absurd, but it’s meant to be. Also, the acting is pretty solid all around. Liam Neeson makes for a great Hannibal and Sharlto Copley’s performance as the deranged Murdoch was the best thing about the film, stealing all of his scenes. One exception must be made for Bradley Cooper. While his performance in and of itself was just fine, he does not carry that same suaveness that Faceman had in the series. Rating: 7/10
Simon thought: “‘Overkill is underrated,’ quips Colonel Hannibal Smith in the big screen adaptation of The A-Team, and so is this film. As far as pure, unadulterated, straight-up fun is concerned, The A-Team has few equals. Joe Carnahan’s brand of sly humour and blindingly over-the-top action means that nary a second goes by that is not without merit. This joviality is amplified by the chemistry between its four leads. This is not merely the “oh they’re having a good time” exercise: they legitimately give great performances and anchor the eccentricity to palatable effect. Copley is probably the standout here as the comic relief, but he never overshadows his cohorts. Most surprisingly, Jackson is not terrible; in fact he’s quite a bit of fun. To The A-Team’s detriment, the final act drags on a bit from the lightening quick pacing of its preceding segments, and many of the hand-to-hand combat scenes are incomprehensibly shot. This is an odd contrast to the explosion oriented battle sequences which are crisp and well realized. Bluntly put, this is the best movie of a ho-hum summer.” Rating: 7/10
Dinah thought: “Forget what you’ve heard, The A-Team is crazy fun. Your favorite characters from the ’80s show are back and well-preserved by new actors. Murdock, played by Sharlto Copley, is particularly hilarious as the slightly insane member of the elite squad. Thankfully, B.A. Baracus, played by non-actor Rampage Jackson, isn’t bad either though no one can replace the iconic Mr. T. Just like the ’80s television show, the plot is still wholly unrealistic and wraps up entirely too neatly and predictably in favor of the butt-kicking good guys. One major gaff — the villain is sloppily written, though describing issues would require spoilers. Nonetheless, you’ll forget about the plot holes and pointless side characters with all the fun action sequences, explosions, and silly interplay.” Rating: 7/10
Kieran thought: “Adaptations of popular TV shows are usually a safe bet for studios, with hits such as Charlie’s Angels, but they usually are lacking in quality. Luckily The A-Team is a little better but it is still a typical summer blockbuster. Director Joe Carnahan is able to inject some style into the film, for example being very creative with subtitles. Even thought the plot is simple, it was credible: surprising considering Fox’s hack for hire Skip Wood (Hitman, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) co-wrote the script. Some of the action sequences were disappointing, with extreme closes-up and half-a-second cuts, making you miss the glory of a fist fight. An obvious negative side-effect from the Bourne series (which I like). Sharlto Copley was the best member of the cast, injecting a lot of humor as the insane pilot and show how much Copley’s star has risen in a short space of time. Neeson was good as the serious man of the piece (but he still has moments of comedy) and it is fun to see an older action hero kicking butt. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was okay in The A-Team but there was no way he was ever going to match Mr. T’s charisma and screen presence. And Patrick Wilson shows his talent and give of us a sleazy performance, similar to his role in Hard Candy (without being pedophile). Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.8/10