– Summary –
Director : Joe Carnahan
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bloom.
Approx Running Time : 1Hr 53 Minutes
Synopsis: Betrayed by their Government, after obtaining valuable money-printing plates in Baghdad, a team of elite soldiers must recover the black-market product and clear their names.
What we think : Enjoyable, if superficial action romp in the grand tradition of 80’s genre classics, The A Team plays like a bizarre video game cross between The Bourne Identity and Stallone’s recent The Expendables (albeit not as violent). Hardly memorable except for District 9’s Sharlto Copley as Murdock, The A Team is explosive, gargantuan fun that’s as emotionally involving as growing grass.
Of the three mainstream team-oriented action films released this year (The Expendables and The Losers being the other two), I think The A Team is perhaps the most fun. Directed with a ballsy, testosterone fuelled zeal by Joe Carnahan (who also helmed the coma-awakening Smokin’ Aces), The A Team doesn’t pretend to be anything but a crazy, logic-free action adventure that revels in it’s own stupidity. It’s like they’ve sat down and said “how insane can we make this?” and some pimply dude at the back has stood up and told them “damn f**king insane”, and so that’s the film they’ve made. The A Team is insane. Completely nuts. It’s batshit crazy. But as far as this kind of film goes, it’s insanely enjoyable.
While in Baghdad, a team of Alpha soldiers (hence “A Team”) recaptures some stolen printing plates for US currency, plates that are exceptionally valuable to all kinds of government agencies… especially the CIA. However, their mission is thwarted by their commanding officer being killed in an explosion, and then the team being court-martialled for going against standing orders not to enter Baghdad. After escaping military prison, the team, led by Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), and including Face (Bradley Cooper), Murdock (Sharlto Copley) and BA Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), must find the plates, kill/capture the CIA agent who double-crossed them (Patrick Wilson), evade the pursuing FBI (Jessica Biel) and clear their names. Not hard for a bunch of guys who do covert ops for a living.
As a child of the 80’s, I feel a little bad that, to date, I’ve never actually watched the TV show this film is based on. As a penance for this cardinal sin, I’m inclined to allow myself to be tied up and molested sexually by a hot twenty-something dominatrix with a penchant for drinking a nice white sparkling and watching Doctor Who. If that can’t happen, then allow me to assume that the only version of the A Team concept worth watching is this one. I have no preconceived ideas about The A Team, aside from the oft-stated explanation that it was a “template” series in a creative mould like Scooby Doo: the same idea and characters recycled from episode to episode, almost to the point of predictability. I was quite prepared to enjoy this film, but the question that remained in my mind (prior to watching) is just how much I’d like it. The A Team isn’t so much a film as it is a force of nature. Much like Smokin’ Aces, director Joe Carnaghan helms this film like he’s driving a Buik; corner hard and fast, keep the pedal down to the floor and hang the hell on! By no means subtle, this film is as much a popcorn entertainment as it is a perfect antidote to Stallone’s recent muscular affair in The Expendables, inasmuch as it’s nowhere near as graphically violent, and a triple threat of humour, stunts and explosions. People might groan that I’m comparing The A Team to Stallone’s film, but it cannot be helped; after all, the two films pander to the male action-film lover in equal amounts, although I tend to think Stallone “gets” the concept more readily than Carnahan. Comparisons aside, The A Team isn’t original, it isn’t logical, and by no means should expect a screenplay written by some university graduate. Nope, you get the expected dialogue hooks (“I pity da fool”, etc etc) that the TV series was known for, only this time in full-blooded widescreen high definition, multi-channel surround sound and some monstrous subwoofer action laid on top of it.
Watching The A Team isn’t difficult, not even for mindless cinema peons such as myself; this is my kind of movie… big, loud and dumb. Never mind the platitudes of Woody Allen’s latest whine-fest, or the “Critically acclaimed” turdfest that is much of Hollywood’s Oscar bait, The A Team delivers what it says on the box: explosions and cool shit. It’s mindless, B-grade rubbish given a big budget, decent production values and a great cast: especially the inspired casting of Sharlto Copley, who came to major recognition with his searing performance in District 9. Here, he plays Murdock, the insane pilot who doubles as the teams heart & soul. Copley is brilliant, has the bulk of the best lines in the film, and gets to do all kinds of whacked out crap. His destruction of the familiar red and black A Team Van, which appears in the films opening fifteen minutes, is a fine way to tip the hat to the fans, as well as introduce the new, modern A Team to a younger audience. Liam Neeson growls his way through the film as the teams leader Hannibal Smith (really, his last name is Smith?) with a shocking grey hair tint and a glint in his eye that seems left over from his portrayal of Zeus in Clash Of The Titans. Neeson’s managed to grab my attention in the last few years, since he blew us all away as Oskar Schindler and then faded into obscurity with shit like Love Actually. Taken, Clash and now this: the man’s on a roll, even if the films themselves aren’t anything that are going to win an award. Bradley Cooper, fresh from his comedic blockbuster The Hangover (which I hated, by the way) has the all-teeth, all-smooth, all-American gee-howdy appeal as Face, the second-in-command of the team, whose ongoing sniping at FBI agent, and former flame, Charissa Sosa (Biel) leads them all into hot water repeatedly. Cooper loves this kind of thing, and revels in the role. Biel looks like she’s got no idea what’s going on, and that’s probably pretty close to the truth as her character seems forever stuck in second gear, unable to get ahead of our gung-ho heroes. Watchmen star Patrick Wilson plays the films central antagonist, Agent Lynch, who’s pursuit of both the plates and the team end up causing untold destruction across a number of continents. Wilson does his best, and although he’s fine as the slick, CIA operative who “pulls the strings” on our heroes, he’s not quite up to snuff as a genuine Bad Guy. Still, I’m nit-picking here. And anybody able to spot an aging Gerald McRaney in this film is doing better than I am. Where’s Simon & Simon when you need it, eh?
Like The Expendables, The A Team does its best work when things are exploding. There’s a chase scene in almost every possible vehicle type, including helicopters, cars and trucks, and one of the biggest on-screen explosions I’ve seen involving a cargo carrier docked in port since.. hell, ever. The plot, something probably considered an afterthought by Carnahan, revolves around improbable, and impossible, situations that defy both science and logic, but also intelligence. There’s not a scerrick of common sense here, and as an audience you’ll either find it totally amusing or completely, unabashedly wonderful. As a fan of Michael Bay’s work, this kind of film delivers the vicariously stupid thrills audiences have been groomed for. You know the action-movie philosophy that whenever a car goes over a cliff, or crashes into another car, it explodes with the force of a thermonuclear missile? That’s the kind of film you have here. Bullets fired by our heroes invariably find their mark with insane accuracy. Bad Guys, of course, can’t shoot for shit, so a billion rounds of ammo seem to simply slide off and around the Good Guys. I loved it. I don’t care if you found it stupid and incomprehensible, sometimes a film just needs to take your brain out, bash the snot out of it for an hour or so and reinsert it with your intellect slightly lessened for the experience. You won’t find credible work in The A Team, aside from the aforementioned stunts and some slightly below par CGI work, but you’ll find a mindless 2 hour film willing to entertain you if you’ll just sit back and let it.
Critics of this film have simply missed the point. Not all action films have to be like Inception, or even The Matrix. Some films, like Armageddon or Lethal Weapon before this, exist purely for the sake of being entertaining, regardless of little things like plot development and scientific plausibility. If you want that, go watch porn. Then again, maybe not. The A Team doesn’t take your crap when it blows up stuff real good. It doesn’t care if you don’t like it, because it’s too busy exploding like John Holmes in a brothel all over the screen at you. Whinging film “buffs”, the kind of knuckle-dragging educated types more interested in watching controversial shit like Ken Park or Irreversible, will look at this film and write it off as pap and faff, a great deal of money spent on nothing worthwhile: screw you, you high-nosed cineast pigs. I say this film does exactly what a film like this should do: give you escapist fun for a few hours until you have to go back to work and deal with Gladys in accounting who won’t give you a new stapler without a requisition form being completed in triplicate. Expecting more is like asking Jenna Jameson to have chat before sex. You don’t want her to, but if it involves you getting to the action faster, then hurry up.