The A-Team. 117 mins. PG-13. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Written by Joe Carnahan & Brian Bloom and Skip Woods. Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, and Patrick Wilson.
I know I watched The A-Team on television as a child, but for the life of me, I can't really remember anything about it. So don't expect this review to be one where I wax nostalgic about the brilliance of Mr. T or George Peppard, or the classic hijinks seen on the show. I remember the theme song, the general story set-up, and, of course, the line, "I love it when a plan comes together." All three of those things are seen in this movie adaptation, and then some. Continuing the trend of mining '80s favorites for modern remakes, co-writer/director Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin' Aces) has done a bang-up job of making The A-Team fresh, funny, and, most of all, fun. The movie is perfectly cast and strikes an infectiously silly tone. It may not win any Oscars and it may often make you shake your head in disbelief, but The A-Team delivers the goods. It's prime popcorn fare - highly rewatchable and easily my favorite movie so far this summer.
The movie starts with an origin segment, showing how all four of our main characters came together to form the A-Team. Liam Neeson is Hannibal Smith, the cigar-chomping, pepper-haired leader of the group. Bradley Cooper is Face, the cocky, impressively buff ladies' man. UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson steps into the role made famous by Mr. T, mohawk and all, as B.A. Baracus. In a nice nod to Mr. T - Jackson's B.A. has "Pity" and "Fool" on the knuckles of his two hands. Finally, District 9's Sharlto Copley gives another winning turn as the mentally unstable pilot, Murdock.
Once together, the movie skips ahead 8 years (and 80 successful missions later). As my friend, BK, asked: I wonder how many missions the writers contemplated being successful over 8 years? 80 - 10 a year? Sounds great! After the four are framed with murdering their general, they break out of jail and go on the run, trying to stop a counterfeiting scheme perpetrated by military baddies. As is typical with movies of this ilk, plot is not necessarily the strong point. Carnahan and his co-writers do an admirable job of keeping it streamlined enough and reasonably intelligent, but the story is not what's compelling.
Where The A-Team excels is in the details. The banter back and forth between the characters. The editing - mixing scenes of Hannibal or Face explaining their plan in private with dynamic action scenes showing the plan "come together", if you will. Patrick Wilson, gleefully tearing into his villainous role. And then there's that tank. There is a stand-out action sequence in the middle of the movie where the A-Team parachute out of a crashing airplane in a military tank. As planes circle around them firing on all cylinders, Cooper's Face takes to the tank's guns and fires back in mid-air. The parachute is hit, the tank falls, and the Team try to "fly" the tank into a nearby lake using only the cannon.
As ridiculous as it sounds, that scene works like gangbusters. And it's reprepsentative of the entire movie. The A-Team is unpretentious fun, with nothing more than entertainment on its mind. Definitely worth your $10 bucks if you're any kind of fan of action comedies. I love it when a movie like this comes together.