All right, let’s just cut to the chase. “The A-Team” is a ridiculous, over-the-top, exploding hand grenade of fun with which you will roll your eyes with err, smile with nostalgia, laugh where it’s funny and find yourself completely lost in the mayhem that writer/director Joe Carnahan (“Narc,” “Smoking Aces”) has captured on screen.
Oh, and I liked almost every minute of it. Almost.
In 1983, the world was given a new type of soldier to root for. Five season later, three Emmy nominations (1983, 1984 and 1987), a People’s Choice Award (1984) and a Stuntman Award (1985) earned the names Hannibal, Murdock, B.A. Baracus and Faceman a regular helping of TV dinner in homes across the United States. Now, like everything else that has been dusted off from my childhood, “The A-Team” has been given the Hollywood treatment and that’s where we find ourselves today.
Just a warning, I may not be able to stop myself from making a “pity the fool” joke. I can feel it coming on, but I will do my best to refrain.
(Clearing throat) … OK.
The films starts with a punch (literally) and immediately throws us into the action as the four above mentioned characters meet, bond and beat up on the bad guys. Seemingly never stopping to take a break, the plot and “plans” weave themselves into this complex web that never really allows the audience to rest. In most situations, I would say that this is a bad thing, but not here. In fact, I would say that this is perfect for this kind of film. Any slow down in the pace would allow the audience to think too much about what’s happening allowing flaws to be more apparent on the surface.
I won’t go too much into the story and how it curves because, as I was sitting in the theater, a few of us got to talking and it seems one member of the audience had never seen an episode of the original series before. After the shock, I realized how much I “pitied the …” wait, no, not going to do it. Sorry, almost let it slip.
After the shock, I realized that he was a part of a whole generation of newbie’s that would experience the team with fresh new eyes, so I’ll keep my commentary on the actual plotlines of the story to myself.
However, in terms of my commentary on the team, that is a completely different story. The originals of George Peppard, Dwight Schultz, Mr. T and Dirk Benedict have been upgraded to the newer models of Liam Neeson (Hannibal), Sharlto Copley (Murdock), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (B.A. Baracus) and Hollywood “It-boy” Bradley Cooper (Face). Needless to say, these four stars are dynamite together. Confidence, a true sense of camaraderie and fun spew off the screen and the combination of them together is a true recipe of success. It’s hard to say if they do the original portrayals of the characters justice, especially in the case of Baracus since Mr. T’s overall brand was built around a lot of the of the character’s traits, but I was not disappointed.
And yet, even with all that team goodness, there are two characters that dominate the screen each time they’re on. Patrick Wilson (“Watchmen”) and Copley (“District 9”) are the two firing pins for this film. Wilson, as the CIA mastermind and badass Lynch, is having so much fun playing his role that you can’t help but like him. Every time he’s onscreen he oozes authority and wields his power like a kid with a pocketful of money in a candy store. On the flipside, Copley as Murdock is bat-with-rabies crazy and just mesmerizing to try and follow his stream of consciousness method. Both are integral to the overall story and both add a lot of depth to roles that could have become silly caricatures in the hands of lesser actors.
Of course, everything is a little flawed and this film is no exception. With a running time of an hour and 57 minutes, this film is way too long. To be fair, it never felt like it dragged, but there were a few montages of “git-r-done” moments that could have been slimmed down. At the same time, for a fun action film, this film starts to get way over-complex pretty quickly and it starts to stumble a little. Carnahan is getting known for his unique style of storytelling and while a little complexity is good, too much makes the silly-meter rise very quickly. Also, Jessica Biel is Jessica Biel, no more no less. In theory her role could have been given to anyone who looks hot in a uniform and it would have worked. Nothing special there.
But, the real issue I have is with some of the action. Not in terms of the over-the-top stuff, even though at times the stuff they do is laughable, but in terms of how the hand-to-hand fighting is shot. It is way too close and you just can’t make out what’s happening. For example, the first time you meet Baracus, he has to flex his muscles and show some people how he earned his name. Great. Love it. Nothing cooler. Yet, the camera is so close, everything looks like blurs and you can’t really see anything. It’s distracting, a little annoying and could have been done much better.
Overall, go see this movie. While not a contender for the big acting awards, “The A-Team” knows exactly what it is – an over-the-top roller coaster of action that, while confident in itself, knows that it is a purely fun retreat into nostalgia. So sit down, grab your popcorn and just enjoy the ride.
And I “pity the fool” who says otherwise!
3.5 out 5 High Caliber Bullets