- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jamey Codding
o each his own, right? While some people will no doubt roll their eyes at the mere mention of the short-lived '80s action show, "The A-Team," others will just as quickly unleash a "Hell, YEAH!" before reminiscing about their favorite episodes. The film adaptation of "The A-Team" will no doubt be met with similarly divided opinions, even with big names like Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel tied to it. Part of that surely is adaptation overload, but for as popular as the TV series was in its day, critics dismissed it as nothing more than mindless popcorn viewing. They were right, of course, and yet the show lives on as a cult classic because, frankly, the fans didn't give a rip about story arcs or formulaic episodes. The show was fun, damn it, and guess what: so is the movie.
Of course, as was the case with the TV series, "The A-Team" is fun only if you're willing and able to overlook its flaws. The show never devoted much energy to plot development, and neither does director Joe Carnahan. In fact, let's see just how few words we can use to cover the story: A couple of chance meetings unite B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and clinically insane flyboy Murdock (Sharlto Copley) with fellow Army Rangers Hannibal (Neeson) and Face (Cooper). Eight years and 80 missions later, the foursome is the Army's most respected commando team, but when they're framed for stealing U.S. currency plates, they break out of prison to expose the real bad guys (played by Patrick Wilson and Brian Bloom) and clear their names. Hmm…73 words. Not bad.
This isn’t exactly riveting storytelling, but the story isn't the draw here. Carnahan chose wisely when, rather than betraying his source material by taking the proceedings too seriously, he fully embraced the show's campy tone and silly cartoon violence, tossing in as many catchphrases and one-liners as longtime fans can handle while yielding a highly disproportionate ratio of ammunition fired (a whole bunch) to dead bodies (a whole lot less). It's ridiculous stuff, to be sure, with one You Must Suspend Disbelief action sequence – like, say, flying a tank – after another. But assuming proper expectations have been set, “The A-Team” is a blast, largely because of the on-target casting. Former MMA champ Jackson, a solid Mr. T replacement, is still the weak link among the A-Teammates while Copley, who proved that he does crazy well in "District 9," shines as the comic relief of the group. As for Neeson, who had plenty of people scratching their heads with this script choice, he seems to be enjoying himself as the team's cigar-chomping, risk-taking leader. And then there's Cooper, who effortlessly slides into the role of the suave and resourceful Face. There’s genuine camaraderie here, and a slew of genuine laughs to boot.
In the end, it's pretty cut and dry: You’ll love the movie if you loved the show, and vice versa. Independents will likely be split, however, with some being swayed by all the things that made the show so popular and others writing it off for those very same reasons. Of course, the eye candy that Biel provides as Face’s former flame adds some appeal, but “The A-Team” is all about the crazy action and its four leads. Give credit to Carnahan for modernizing a cult classic while staying true to the original material. He won’t win over any detractors of the TV series, but he didn’t have to.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
It may not have set the world on fire at the box office, but Fox has still served up a respectable collection of extras for the Blu-ray release of “The A-Team,” highlighted by a feature-length commentary with director Joe Carnahan that also includes behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards and animatics, as well as a cool on-screen widget that keeps track of the various steps in each executed plan throughout the movie. The two-disc set also contains a making-of featurette (“Plan of Attack”), character profiles for Hannibal, Face, B.A., Murdock and Jessica Biel’s Charissa Sosa, a before-and-after visual effects montage, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and the now-standard digital copy.