The movie version of the 80’s television show “The A-Team” has finally made its way to the big screen, and it is one of those examples of how (as U2 put it in the song “Numb”) too much is not enough. The plot is razor thin, and the stunts defy all things we see as logically possible. And you know what? I HAD SUCH A BLAST WATCHING IT!!! Many reviewers have been bemoaning that the movie was not what it could have been. I on the other hand prefer to see it for what it is, a highly entertaining film and the kind of movie you can usually expect at theaters during the summertime.
After a prologue which shows how this team of army rangers came together, we get thrust right into the action as we catch up with Hannibal, Faceman, B.A. Baracus, and the consistently insane Murdock who are about to wrap their tour of duty in Iraq. But before they can leave, they are given another mission to retrieve U.S. treasury plates that insurgents intend on using to make counterfeit money; the same kind of plates we would love to have in our possession as it would allow us to quit our day jobs. Without going into much detail, the plan goes awry, and they get set up to take the fall for something they are completely innocent of. The rest of the movie has them on a mission to get the plates back and clear their names.
The director behind this seemingly unrestricted mayhem is one Joe Carnahan. This is the same Joe Carnahan who began his career with the $7,500 budgeted “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane,” and who later directed one of the best crime thrillers of recent years with “Narc.” Not once does he allows us to take the characters or what they are doing at all seriously, and it is clear from the get go that Carnahan wants us to take joy in the utter insanity of what’s going on. For those who think the movie could have been more serious and reality based, you came in expecting the wrong movie. The show itself was comic in its approach, and this film captures the tone of it perfectly.
I mean look at what these guys do here; they parachute out of a plane in a tank, and they end up having to steer it by firing the turret (I hope they didn’t hit anything). There are other moments that defy simple description, and you just have to watch it without wondering too much over how they pulled it off without a hitch. These are characters who prepare for their missions by doing the impossible (or so it would seem). While Carnahan at times gets caught up in the current action film editing of quick shots which at times leaves us a little confused as to what we’re watching, he keeps us entertained throughout and even allows us to breathe when we need to.
This movie’s success as summer entertainment also owes a lot to its cast which keeps us from questioning how they pulled off the stunts in the first place. They make us root for their characters as soon as we first see them onscreen.
Seeing Liam Neeson here as John “Hannibal” Smith was a lot of fun as it allows him to let loose a little. Typically, we see him as a mentor character in movies like “The Phantom Menace” and “Batman Begins” to name a few. As Hannibal, it’s the same kind of role, but here he doesn’t have to be his old serious self. Once you see him pop a cigar into his mouth and light it up, you can see why Neeson was eager to join this project; he wanted to have fun and not be all that serious. Seeing that wicked grin of his was great, especially considering what he has been through in the past year or so.
Bradley Cooper plays Templeton “Faceman” Peck, the Casanova of the group who despite his womanizing ways, still has eyes for Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel). After all these years, Bradley has come a long way from beating the crap out of Vince Vaughn in “Wedding Crashers.” Along with the comic chops he showed in last summer’s “The Hangover,” he manages to convince the audience of his various intentions and has us believing that despite all the craziness he is caught up in, that he really does care for Sosa regardless of how badly their relationship ended.
The part of B.A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus is played here Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion. I kept thinking that his nickname “Rampage” won him the part. Taking on a part made famous by Mr. T could not have not been an enviable position to be in, but Quinton pulls it off. Is this role a stretch for him? It doesn’t matter because he has us believing in his character, and that’s even when he says that he has become a pacifist. We all know that can’t last, and Quinton does surprisingly good acting work here without the use of gold chains. Thanks to his work here, he is no fool that we have to pity.
But the most surprising casting choice here is Sharlto Copley who takes on the role of H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock. It is only when he slips back into his South African accent that you remember he was in one of the very best movies of 2009, “District 9.” Sharlto actually pulls off a highly convincing southern accent here, showing us that he is a much more talented actor than even he knows. Watching him go nuts on a regular basis, be it jump starting a car with a defibrillator or singing a Dead Or Alive song while hanging onto to a rotor blade of a helicopter had me in stitches.
Jessica Biel is on board as Faceman’s eternal love interest Charisa Sosa, and she makes for a convincing bad ass female soldier here. It’s in some ways the same kind of role she played in “Blade Trinity,” and it is nice to see her doing it again in an infinitely better movie. She deserves to be seen as more than Justin Timberlake’s girlfriend or that character she played for years on “7th Heaven” (I never watched that show).
For those of you wondering if the show’s famous theme song is at all featured, it is. Some say it is not in the movie enough, but they should be happy it was included. The score was composed by Alan Silvestri, famous for writing the music for such 80’s movies like the “Back To The Future” trilogy and “The Abyss.” Alan still has it in him to create rousing action scores to keep our adrenaline up and running.
“The A-Team” also proves what I have been saying about how the US military is treated in movies today; they are not anti-troop in the slightest, they are anti-mercenary. From “Rambo” to “The Hurt Locker” and on to this year’s “Green Zone,” troops are shown to be a dedicated bunch to their country. The main baddies to be found here are the mercenaries who don’t even try to hide the fact that they make more in one day than an American soldier makes in a year. Now tell me, who do you think is more patriotic?
You could complain about how absurd “The A-Team” is on the big screen, but it seems like that was the same case when it was on your TV screen. Carnahan plays on what made the show so appealing when it first came on in the 80’s, and he pays homage to it without making a simple carbon copy of what many of us grew up on. Every once in awhile, we need a movie that is mindless and fun, and which does not require us to think too much about what’s going on. “The A-Team” succeeds on this front, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought it would. As for there being no Plan B, we’ll just have to wait until Stallone’s “Expendables” comes out.
Oh by the way, be sure to stay through the end credits. You’ll see why.
*** out of ****