The A-Team won’t win Joe Carnahan any Oscars, nor will it match the box office of Avatar… but it will provide big dumb fun, and if that is what you’re expecting you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
As reboots of television series go, this would have to be one of the more successful. Carnahan has captured the iconic foursome of the early 80s, provided them with a much-needed backstory and time-shifted them to the present, while never forgetting to maintain a light-hearted tone that allows his audience to accept the absurd without questioning. As juggling acts go, Carnahan’s is pretty impressive. His film has a quality that is almost ‘comic book’ in nature, characters that display a gentle wit about their preposterous activites, and enough respect for its source to ensure the ‘boys own’ spirit is preserved.
As an Army Ranger crew responsible for an incredible mission success rate in Iraq, Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith (Liam Neeson), Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck (Bradley Cooper), Bosco B.A. Baracus (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson) and H.M. ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock (Sharlto Copley) are without peer. After being betrayed during a mission and set-up for murder, however, the four heroes find themselves in military prisons or, in the case of Murdock, a psychiatric hospital. When a chance to clear their names presents itself, they escape and promptly get up to their old tricks once more.
The most major flaw is one common to so many of the films released in the past decade or so: the use of rapid-fast editing and handheld cameras makes many of the action scenes close to unwatchable. Characters are indistinguishable from one another, while the lack of shots that allow an overview is quite detrimental. For a film so competently handled, the decision to obscure these sequences rather than allow them their full strength is a disappointing (and ultimately diminishing) one. That Carnahan is not alone in this modern madness is no excuse.
There are frequent scenes in which the events are so far beyond believable that were they in another film, they would be dismissed immediately. For some strange reason, however, in The A-Team the ridiculous becomes amusing and even exciting rather than just silly. The flight of the tank and its madcap occupants must rank as one of the most silly in cinema history, and yet, somewhat miraculously, here it’s plain fun. The escape from Mexico in a stolen helicopter almost perfectly defines the newly formed team and their ‘plans’ that border on the frankly silly.
For characters so well known to so many of the audience, the actors chosen to play them must be either exact replicas or individual enough to distinguish the role as their own. In most cases, the modern crew manage to make us forget their former incarnations due to the stength of the performances. Cooper is particularly outstanding as Face, and this turn will do nothing to harm his seemingly inevitable rise to being first choice for the kind of roles that Tom Cruise used to own. Neeson is reasonable as Hannibal, although Jackson is given what might be the hardest task – replacing Mr. T as B.A. Baracus – and doesn’t quite pull it off. Copley is the remaining standout, and his Murdock is a consumate reauthoring that truly lifts the film.
Minor quibbles aside – why subtitle a German bank location as ‘Konigsbank’ when the sign on the building clearly shows it spelled ‘Königsbank’? just how fucking dumb are American audiences perceived to be? – The A-Team is an entertaining romp that should please most fans of the original series while introducing the gang and their antics to a younger audience. Just don’t forget to stick around after the credits!Rating: