Movie Review: The A-Team (2010)

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Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Liam Neeson and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in The A-Team
Photo: 20th Century Fox

The A-Team begins “Somewhere in Mexico” and shortly thereafter we jump to an action piece “Somewhere Else in Mexico,” which is to say if the trailers didn’t tip you off, by the time you’re five minutes into this film you’re well aware that while it’s set in the real world, it isn’t concerned with the rules of that world. The A-Team is just as outlandish as the trailers make it out to be and it’s easy to have fun with for every bit of its silliness. The mayhem that ensues is the most appealing part of this action adventure even though the finale does get a little too big for its own good almost insinuating there was money left to spend. No problem, this film is never trying to be anything more than a fun and wild romp, and with a bit of charisma and some solid action pieces it’s worth the time at the theater.

Director Joe Carnahan is known for his more R-rated fare such as Narc and Smokin’ Aces, and even though The A-Team isn’t as graphic or foul-mouthed as those two films it does keep the action ramped up in nearly every scene. It maintains the good-natured spirit of the 1980s television series the film is based on (though the bodies on the floor may leave purists whining), and plays it like more of a dumbed down, bruised-knuckle version of Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise.

Liam Neeson seems prepped and ready to take on the lead role of Col John ‘Hannibal’ Smith after his gun-toting affair in Taken and he’s surrounded by a solid group of characters best recognized for their eccentrities than anything else. Bradley Cooper plays the playboy with a frat boy mentality Lt. Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson plays Sgt Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baracus (the role made famous by Mr. T) and Sharlto Copley (District 9) plays the psychotic pilot Capt. ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock. Together they make up the elite Special Forces group known as the A-Team.

The story begins eight years in the future suggesting troop withdrawal from the Middle East and involves a counterfeit money making scheme, the CIA, the Army, private military and the Department of Defense as the members of the A-Team are set up for a crime they didn’t commit. Smith finds himself and his team court-martialed and imprisoned, with the only solution being to break-out, clear their names and catch the culprit. Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson are along for the ride, getting in the way when the can, but for the most part adding just enough story to get our team from one action set piece to the next, and I thank them for it.

Strangely enough, reading through the press notes, they attribute the ten years it took to get the film made as an attempt to avoid the campy nature of the television show. Either they gave up on that idea or Carnahan and the film’s two other credited screenwriters’ attempt at avoiding camp is what makes The A-Team so campy. This is not an emotional feature with characters you care for or plot development. This is ludicrous action sequence after action sequence involving flying tanks and CG dock explosions, and while it doesn’t make for a very thought provoking film, it makes for a fun one with oddball characters and plenty of recycled catchphrases.

I won’t argue with anyone that says the film lacks in storytelling, but I will argue if it’s said the film lacks energy and entertainment. Because that’s all this film is, a big explosive ball of entertainment. We have characters laughing in the face of danger and pulling off unthinkable stunts with smiles on their faces. Carnahan has managed to put together a solid cast of actors able to play such characters and has woven together just enough craziness to make for a fun film. Logic may be out the window, but I assure you if you go in with an eye for an energetic action flick you won’t be disappointed.

GRADE: B