I am sure its the side effects of a soul-crushing summer box office (seriously, instead of ratings, these films should have come with prescription-bottle warning labels indicating their sleep-inducing effects), but leave it to a loud, obnoxious adaptation of an equally loud, simplistic television show to be the summer’s best offering thus far.
Even at its heyday, “The A Team” was considered high fructose entertainment. It’s fun now to wax nostalgic about the series, but if you have ever tried to suffer through more than two episodes at a time today, you can actually feel the IQ points trickle out of your ear onto the floor.
They were silly, repetitive and laughably trite, but the leads’ chemistry made the proceedings bearable. And while the film gets just a shade darker (contrary to what the A-Team show taught me, bullets and bombs actually KILL people!), it still relies heavily on the frat-boy sparring of mastermind Hannibal (played by Liam Neeson), pretty boy Face (played by Bradley Cooper), nutjob Murdock (played by “District 9’s” Sharlto Copley) and the iconic B.A. Baracus (here played by mixed martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson).
Almost all of the actors involved in this go-round actually improve on the originals, making them feel just a tad more authentic: Neeson, the most notable of the bunch, seems to relish in the B-movie madness much the same way he amplified his performance for“Taken”; Cooper, as always just can’t help but be charming, regardless the role; and the real surprise is Copley, whose resume is the lightest of the bunch, but whose performance is one of the film’s most engaging as the resident loon.
Only when Jackson’s Baracus takes up the screen does the film skid to a halt. The reason the original B.A. was iconic was not the chains, the mohawk or the catchphrases, but the steely glare and the delivery of Mr. T. It’s a laser-eyed look that Jackson has yet to perfect (though, ironically, Jackson is most likely far more deadly than “T” ever was in his prime).
Regardless, the crew has such an easy rapport, it feels like a reunion of castaways from TBS’s old “Movies for Guys Who Like Movies,” except a lot more explode-y.
I’ve made ¾ of the way through this without mentioning plot, and, come to think of it, so did the film. Something about stolen plates for money laundering, Blackwater (oh, I’m sorry, Black Forest) and Jessica Biel’s phone number or something like that. I gotta be honest, I was far too busy being distracted by the numerous munition-infused money shots that dot the film (the flying tank scene is worth the price alone) to really care.
And the pacing of cheeseball action is just what director Joe Carnahan knows a little about. His first big outing was the critically lauded cop drama “Narc,” which was most likely a fluke. This is not meant as a knock to Carnahan, for he seems a more assured director when he allows things to fly off the handle a bit. His next film, “Smokin’ Aces” was a perfect example in this cartoonish excess.
With “The A-Team,” he’s given a much bigger sandbox.
Just like one of Hannibal’s famous “plans,” Carnahan stages the sequences with precision, never letting the audience linger too long over the countless laws of physics and gravity were just broken.
The doors are left open wide for a sequel, and while I enjoyed the time spent with this group of manly men and all the fun times with explosions that can be had, it would be best to let the “A-Team” ride off into their undisclosed location, emerging only once more to celebrate the DVD release.
That way, Carnahan and crew can get cracking on a big-screen treatment of “Airwolf,” “BJ and the Bear” or “Simon and Simon.”