Based on: The A-Team, created by Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell
Adaptation Grade: A
HANNIBAL: I believe that no matter how random things may appear, there’s still a plan.
Following along the same lines as the legendary TV series, The A-Team revolves around a group of four U.S. military veterans who have a rather theatrical taste for the ridiculous. Having updated to the new millennium, the group are fighting in Iraq and are set to return home after a lengthy stint. They get called in for one last mission and end up getting framed and sent off to jail. And much like the show, they break out in order to clear their names.
Joe Carnahan, best known for Narc and Smokin’ Aces, has crafted the rare film that knows exactly what it is and wants to be: a hilarious, nostalgic and action-filled buddy film piling one ridiculous sequence on after the next. It knows it is ridiculous, and never once does it mistake this notion to be a bad thing. Instead, the film revels in it and has fun with the audience. You can almost see the glint in the cast’s eyes, and their hidden winks at the camera letting us know they are in on the joke. It packs on the little references to the show to impress those who grew up watching it, but ensures that everyone else still understands the finer details. One sequence in particular, which appears to use footage from the original series, is a very good example of this.
Although Carnahan obviously designed the film to be a summer vehicle, I think it works simply as an all-around audience pleasing romp. It is goofy when it has to be, changes gears to fulfil dramatic obligations, packs on the action set pieces, and then alternates rather swiftly into being hilarious over and over again. The man knew to not take the material too seriously, and the film benefits as a result. If it had veered too far into the territory of parody, or to dipped too close to melodrama, then it would have been a colossal failure on all fronts. But Carnahan ensures it stays right in the middle, never once swaying too far into either realm.
The action sequences are over-the-top and ridiculous in the most sincere sense. But at the same time, they are a total blast to watch. The money shot from the trailer, involving the team free falling through the air in a tank as Bradley Cooper tries to shoot down remote-controlled drones, is every bit as exhilarating and awesome as it appeared. And that is just the start of how thrilling every action sequence in this film truly is. It starts off strong with a daring helicopter chase across Mexico, and just blasts ahead at every interval it can find. Everything that happens may be totally unrealistic, but I cannot fault anyone involved when still awestruck by how breathtaking every action set piece is.
Acting-wise, everyone is solid across the board. Liam Neeson, as the cigar chomping leader Hannibal Smith, has the charisma for the role and hams it up so well that you may forget he was once Oskar Schindler. Bradley Cooper brings just enough suave and sophistication to Faceman Peck, who gets a lot of the best lines. Rampage Jackson as B.A. Baracus jumps into the shoes once filled by Mr. T, and while the the weakest member of the main cast still brings a lot more to the character than I ever thought possible. But it is Sharlto Copley, an actor still mostly known for his star-making role in District 9, who steals the entire movie as Howling Mad Murdock. His performance is totally unhinged and totally unpredictable. Every single actor on screen has to push themselves to the limit to even attempt to keep up with him. And while his South African accent pops up a bit too often, he covers it well. Supporting turns from Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson, while a bit overshadowed, are still fairly good.
If there are any faults in the film (outside of a rather ill-conceived special effects sequence late in the piece involving storage containers on a dock), it is in the realization that there is little to no development for the characters. This is a fairly straight revenge picture that plays itself out much the way you would imagine it would (with a bit of plot convolution here and there), and leaves no room for the characters to really change. But for The A-Team, that is really not much of a problem at all. It is an awesome action picture that is a whole lot of fun from beginning to end.
The A-Team (2010)
Written by: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copely, Jessica Biel, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz