This week is an odd weekend in summer blockbuster territory, where a battle between reboots and remakes is being waged. First up is The A-Team a remake of the popular 1980s television show of the same name, most popular for familiarizing the public with Mr. T and his catchphrase “I pity the fool.”
The A-Team, which stands for “Alpha Team” is a unique set of Army Rangers that is capable of doing things other units are not. Leading the team is Col. “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson), who has the uncanny ability to think two steps ahead, almost guaranteeing the success of his team’s missions. Assisting him is Lt. “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper), who has a penchant for tanning and women, but also shows himself to be quite capable second in command. The muscle of the group is Sgt. B.A. Baracus (UFC star Rampage Jackson), who is instantly recognizable sporting the Mohawk made famous by Mr. T in the original series. Rounding out the crew is Capt. “Howling Mad” Murdock, a top notch pilot who might have a few screws loose.
The film is mainly focused on the origin of the group, and their subsequent betrayal by people around them, which leads them to become soldiers of fortune. They must travel around the world hatching a plan which will clear their name, and prove them to be innocent of the crimes they have been accused of.
Filmmaking in The A-Team redefines mindless action. There are many times in the film where you can’t deny that you had a bit of fun, but it leaves you with nothing substantial. Explosions, gun fights, and action sequences abound in this over the top reboot.
What really sells the film is the cast, which consists of a mix of rising stars, and a few vets. The biggest draw here is Neeson in his role as leader, Hannibal. Neeson has no trouble convincing the audience that he is every bit as capable and cunning as his character is supposed to be written.
I was equally impressed with Patrick Wilson (who seems to be breaking out in a number of roles lately), as the scheming CIA agent Col. Lynch. Wilson is easily the most charming of all the characters in the film. What makes the performance more impressive is the fact that his character is supposed to be loathed, not the one you are silently rooting for.
Sharlto Copely who impressed me heavily in last year’s District 9, continues to shine as the slightly crazy Murdock. Copely elicits the most laughs within the whole group, and his over the top performance easily fits within the scale of the movie. It is enough to make you wish more of the actors realized what type of film they were in.
I’ve been singing the praises of Bradley Cooper for a while now, and have hoped that more people would put him as a lead role. This time however, he disappointed me a bit. My doubt is shaken that he can carry a movie, and I am now wondering if he should stay as a stand out supporting character? Unfortunately, he was not helped by co-star Jessica Biel who did not seem to match up with him.
Reprising a role that made an actor an icon is a hard job, and I can’t really blame Rampage Jackson for not living up to the role. There are some roles that can only be played by one character, mainly because they embodied them perfectly before. I doubt there is any actor that could have made anyone forget who originally inhabited the role. I guess I “pity the fool” who has to follow Mr.T. The biggest compliment I can give Jackson is that his performance did not dip into farce.
Director Joe Carnahan, best known for his hectic action performer, Smokin’ Aces, once again gives us over the top action with no emotional center. No one can deny that Carnahan has a good visual eye for action sequences, but he lacks heavily in bringing character development to the screen.
The A-Team is a film that many will enjoy, but not many will rush out to tell their friends to see it. It is a serviceable enough action film, but has trouble resonating with its audience. Fans of over the top action will no doubt enjoy it, but they might want to leave their significant others at home.
Another take from Zac:
The latest TV adaptation, The A-Team, gets 3 great actors and one unproven one together with a director that can shoot some action and the results is an almost non-stop action flick with paper thin characters and a weak plot that is quite a lot of fun.
The A-Team is a group of rangers who have been performing mission after mission specializing in black ops and crazy over the top affairs. After being sporadically thrown together in the film’s opening back story we flash forward to eight years later to see the team accept a mission in Iraq to recapture a billion some dollars and the illegal plates that made them. Well as you can tell from the trailer, the group is double crossed, thrown in prison, and are forced to prove their innocence.
The film is a very similar plot line to The Losers from a couple months ago and both of these film are equally fun, have great casts, and realize that they are big fun action movies and try not to be anything more; and it works great for both of them. Is the film’s plot simple and not all that thought out, sure. Are the characters fairly one note and lack any real depth or diversity to their characters, of course. But why is that a bad thing? The film isn’t trying to create high art, it is trying to entertain, and it does that with ease.
The films first hour is almost a text book lesson in how to make an action movie. Action of every variety, fighting, car chases, and helicopter dog fights, it does a little bit of everything. The pacing is great, never letting up in the least, and it is very easy to enjoy the ride. The second half of the film starts off a tad slow, but as long as we are hanging out with the A-Team you won’t mind the dragging bits. Yes things get a bit over the top and the film throws logic out the window from time to time but it is all in the spirit of pacing and fun and I for one was glad to take it.
One of the things I was most delighted with in the film was Sharlto Copley coming out swinging and proving District 9 was not a fluke. The breakout star of last years sci-fi sleeper hit is incredibly funny and convincingly crazy as the ridiculous pilot Murdoch. Joe Carnahan and Copley try just about everything for laughs and they mostly succeed while Copley proves he can go toe to toe with some of the best working actors, i.e. Liam Neeson. Neeson plays Hannibal, the team leader, and he like everyone else in the crew has a great swagger and charisma that is instantly likable and equally badass. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson does a serviceable enough job in his first acting gig and while he is a bit behind his co-stars in talent he still has plenty of fun and never slowed things down one bit. Bradley Cooper wraps up the rest of the team as “Face” and he is funny, smooth, and revels in the action scenes. The whole team just captures the spirit of the film throughout and they make it easy for you to jump into the mayhem and not fret about the plot/character shortcomings. Jessica Biel doesn’t do anything terribly interesting, not that the script gives her much to do, and she fill her role just fine. Patrick Wilson is also fun and silly as a CIA operative that probably shouldn’t be trusted.
Also, a quick disclaimer before we wrap this up, I didn’t see the last five minutes of the film, the negative burned at our screening, but the main plot was wrapped up and for all I know there wasn’t something that ruined the film in those final minutes.
In the end, The A-Team is a fun, action packed, and well shot flick and it is a breath of fresh air to have a director like Carnahan showing us how an action movie should be shot. Sure a bit more complexity and depth to the characters and story could have put this over the top, but it remains an extremely fun and worthwhile movie in its own right. The cast is mostly great and they have some fine chemistry together which will have you pining for more after the credits roll; or your negative burns out, whichever comes first.
The A-Team is a B