by HELEN GEIB
The “A-Team” TV series writ with a blockbuster budget, The A-Team is highly enjoyable summer escapism. Those looking for a good time at the movies will find it.
Series fans will recall that before the members of the A-Team were contemporary knights-errant, traveling the country righting injustices, they were unjustly convicted of a crime they did not commit. The A-Team is an origins story that supplies new details for this premise. The setting has been updated to near-now and the team’s war from Vietnam to Iraq, but they are still set up and unjustly convicted. The rest of the film concerns their efforts to expose the real culprits and foil their evil scheme, although CIA connivance and Army face-saving will nevertheless ensure their eventual life on the road.
Many of the details of the plot are nonsensical. This being an “A-Team” movie, this is insignificant. What is significant is the team and the plan.
The team is Liam Neeson as John “Hannibal” Smith; Bradley Cooper as Templeton “Faceman” Peck; Sharlto Copley (District 9) as H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock; and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as Bosco “B.A.” Baracas. The characters are introduced in a fun prologue that shows how they met and formed an impromptu team to complete a mission; it’s the wild and crazy beginnings of the elite, but still wild and crazy, Army Ranger unit of present-time.
For those with fond memories of the show, it’s also a re-introduction that affirms the characters retain their unique quirks and talents, and the team its known and loved internal dynamics. Simultaneously, the prologue is a declaration of independence, symbolized by the pulverization of B.A.’s beloved van (traumatic loss for him, amusing ’80s reference and in-joke for the audience). The actors put their own spin on the familiar personalities, the screenplay gives the banter and trademark sayings a fresh spin, and the film is unexpectedly strong on the camaraderie; in a very manly and Ranger-ish way, these guys really love each other.
The plan utilizes each team member’s complementary strengths (Hannibal: leadership and strategy; Face: intel and psychological profiling; Murdock: brilliant pilot and crazy enough for anything; B.A.: uber tough guy and mechanical genius) and features ingenious new methods of demolition. In other words, it repeats the formula that made the series so successful. As Jessica Biel’s straight arrow Army officer puts it in the line of dialogue that proves beyond doubt that the filmmakers understand the essence of the show: “They’re the best, and they specialize in the ridiculous.” Under the big budget gloss, this is still “The A-Team,” and you gotta love that.
And if you don’t love that, stay home. Seriously. This is not the movie for you.
Admittedly the film is not perfect. It suffers from the common complaint of Hollywood action movies: there’s a bit too much of it. It could have used a few judicious trims here and there. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, even when the good thing cost a lot of money to put on the screen and involves fireballs on an impressive scale.
On the other hand, it also benefits from two of the common strengths of Hollywood action movies. Patrick Wilson’s devious, ruthless, and articulate CIA baddie makes an excellent villain and there are some great one-liners.
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