A-Team, The (2010)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

        

Starring:  Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Henry Czerny, Yul Vazquez, Brian Bloom.
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Director:  Joe Carnahan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 117 Mins.
Release Date:  June 11, 2010
DVD Release Date: December 14, 2010
Box Office: $77.2 Million
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Dune Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, Top Cow Productions and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Written By:  Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods, based on characters created by Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell

“Why not?” – Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper)

After watching the big screen adaptation of the 1980’s television series, “The A-Team”, I came away thinking that I have rarely been so entertained by a film that is all things considered, a mess.  The comedy, the suspense, the action, the all-important plot, for example, all seem tossed together into a kind of action movie stew.  Like a lot of stews I have sampled over the years, one bite may differ from the next, but you keep eating.  And either I was extremely hungry, or maybe I simply liked the taste.

Beginning with the origins of how the A-Team were formed, we meet Faceman, B.A., Murdock and Hannibal defeating a Mexican general and coming together as an elite fighting force in the process.  Leaping ahead 8 years and following 80 successful missions, we reconnect with the distinctive personalities that comprise this highly trained, highly skilled, and borderline crazy group of men known as The A-Team.

Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”) plays Dirk Benedict’s “Faceman” role with a zealous, careless and almost renegade approach.  Liam Neeson assumes the “Hannibal” role and provides the brains and experience behind the operation.  Former Ultimate Fighting Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson makes his film debut, assuming the iconic “B.A. Baracus” role made famous by Mr. T.  Jackson may not be the best actor ultimately, but he has enough presence and likability in his performance that he gets a pass in making B.A. his own character.

Without question, however, the standout in “The A-Team” cast is Sharlto Copley’s performance as Murdock.  Copley in two performances has simply become one of my favorite actors.  A captivating lead in the 2009 Academy-Award nominated movie,  “District 9″, Copley steals the movie from his more well known co-stars.  Copley’s Murdock is insane, certifiably so, and yet the most skilled pilot around.  The movie receives a recommendation from me almost exclusively from his manic and hilarious performance.

Oh they do try and tell a story here also.

After we are introduced to The A-Team, and jump ahead 8 years (just after the conclusion of the Iraq War no less), we learn of a nefarious plot where engraving plates have been stolen and are being used to propagate counterfeit American currency.  The CIA bring in Hannibal and his team to seize a million dollars in counterfeit money and steal back the engraving plates, hopefully thwarting the operation.  However, rogue agents and deceitful government employees make completing the task difficult and when the entire plot unravels, the A-Team is on the run from good guys, bad guys, a determined military investigator (Jessica Biel) and are distrustful of anyone they encounter.

There’s more of course, but it doesn’t really much matter.  I again acknowledge that it is borderline hypocritical of me to praise a film with so many obvious flaws.  Yet, a film so flawed has seldom been this entertaining.  If not the interaction between the characters, then the ridiculous, over-the-top, go-for-broke action sequences may be what made the film such an enjoyable time for me.  One scene in particular involving a tank and a parachute is so implausible and improbable and completely enthralling that you are left to do little more than just smile and nod at the inventiveness of it all.

Joe Carnahan, the co-writer and director here, has made one terrific gritty, drug-laden cop film (2002’s “Narc”) and one bad gritty, drug-laden cop film (2009’s “Smokin’ Aces”).  Working with a big ole budget for the first time, and with limitless special effects and CGI at his disposal, Carnahan has shown that he can handle a big studio picture.  There is plenty to point at in “The A-Team” and rip apart, ridicule, and dismiss.  But there is also plenty to like and for me, the likes won the battle.

Perhaps for Joe Carnahan’s next film, he can focus on his strengths as a writer and direct something truly special, as opposed to making something analogous to joyriding in your parents sports car for the first time without supervision.

Should I See It?

YES

For those who love summer action movies, here’s your next main course – served up hot and fresh on a platter for your immediate sampling.

The interplay with many of the film’s main and supporting characters is really orchestrated nicely by Joe Carnahan’s script and directing.  Nice to see his savvy ability to introduce characters was not lost with the big studio budget.

Sharlto Copley, the breakout star from 2009’s “District 9″ is absolutely hilarious and makes the movie worth seeing almost single-handedly.

You love the TV series and are curious how the long-awaited adaptation plays on screen.

NO

The film, during fight sequences, is rather poorly edited.  Often, especially early on, it is difficult to get a sense for who’s who, who’s fighting who, what’s happening to who, etc.

You are a fan of the TV series and find this film unnecessary.

The ridiculousness of the action sequences, the logic absent from the plot, and the overall loud, frenetic pace of the film may make some people throw up their hands and walk away.

For some viewers, this will bring absolutely no interest whatsoever.  Smug comedy, military subplot, evil Iraqis, loud booming explosions and loud rock soundtrack, weapons, government operatives…the cliches are here, at times proudly so.

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