Review: The A-Team


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.

3.5/5 Stars

The A-Team
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


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