Sunday, June 20, 2010

The A-Team

Year: 2010
Director: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Brian Bloom

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

Cue theme song.

And that's how the popular 80s hit TV show The A-Team begins each episode. It was an action series with cartoon type violence that featured the late George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr. T as a ragtag group of soldiers for hire. And now, like Miami Vice, Get Smart and a whole load of other TV shows, it gets remade.

The updated version begins with how the team, Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), Lt. Faceman Peck (Bradley Cooper), B.A. Baracus (Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson) and H.M. Murdock (Sharlto Copley) came together and then were sent to Iraq during the Gulf War.
At the end of the war, Hannibal gets word from CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) about U.S. money printing plates being shipped out of Iraq by Saddam loyalists. Hannibal makes an agreement with his superior, General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) to retrieve the plates off the record.

So The A-Team spring into action and successfully recover the plates, but before they can give it to the General, he is killed by Black Forest operatives led by Pike (Brian Bloom), who subsequently takes the plates. The official military officer in charge of the plates, Captain Sosa (Jessica Biel) holds Hannibal and his men responsible for the incident, since there is no one left to verify Hannibal's orders. The four men are sentenced to prison.

But all is not lost. Hannibal is determined to free his men and clear their names. With a little help from Lynch, he succeeds in breaking out, freeing his team and find Pike. However, they're in for a few surprises.

Director Joe Carnahan, who also wrote the screenplay, has done an admirable job here. From my memory, the TV series was a lot of fun to watch. Unlike most TV shows today, The A-Team didn't rely on plot twists, violence or a large set of characters doing crazy things. It was just clean, campy fun thanks to the great camaraderie between the four main characters. With Peppard's charisma, Benedict's charm, Schultz's zaniness and Mr. T's tough guy attitude, the show was a hit. And I'm glad to inform you that Carnahan has brought that same chemistry here. He retains the teamwork reminiscent of the series and the humour that comes along with it. That being said, the film is one fun ride that never stops. There's plenty of action, carnage and explosions to be had, with a bit more violence than the series, but it's still PG though.

Neeson is no George Peppard, but he brings just the right amount of screen presence to portray team leader Hannibal, the cigar chomping man with a plan. He is well supported by Cooper as Face, who has really come a long way and is finally believable as an action hero. This is the kind of character he should play more often. District 9's Sharlto Copley is spot on as the crazy Murdock, from the look right down to the mannerisms, and provides much of the laughs here. Jackson isn't quite like Mr. T though, and he doesn't have enough acting experience to be a really convincing B.A. Baracus, but as far as being a muscleman that kicks ass, he lives up to it just fine.

The only thing I have a problem with is Biel, who was probably chosen just to provide eye candy and sexual tension for Face. I think they could have either picked a better actress or make her character a male. I know I would have.

You will see a lot of action sequences, some of which are quite over the top, like the flying tank sequence. But trust me, it's so much fun you won't be bothered by the lack of logic in them. Besides, who watches action films for logic anyway?

I am relieved that I had fun with this film, because this year's summer movies haven't been really satisfying till now. Go see this, and wait till after the end credits for a couple of cameos. (4/5)

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