Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jessica Biel
Ok so what do you expect from a feature film retelling of a campy 80’s action TV series? Well you might rightly expect a disaster. Based on most of the 80’s TV to silver screen adaptations there’s no reason to have much hope. Anyone that grew up with The A-Team on TV probably feels some tug to hit the theater to see this film, for better or for worse.
I never thought about the A team having much of a back-story outside of the voiceover at the beginning of each episode of the series. This film actually manages to build out that back-story and risks making it a large part of the film. Hannibal and Face meet up with B.A. right at the beginning of the film and end up needing his help to get out of a sticky situation. From there they meet with Murdock and B.A.’s anxiety about flying is soon born. Like the opening of the original series (mostly) the team is accused of a crime they didn’t commit and put away in various prisons after many successful missions together. Of course Hannibal “loves it when a plan comes together” so he hatches one to break the team out and clear their names.
What follows is a total rollercoaster ride of action and laughs. This movie follows a trend for retro action set this year by the also surprisingly entertaining The Losers. There are plenty of winks at the fans of the show but there are also just funny scenes regardless of the movie’s pedigree. Liam Neeson as Hannibal plays the straight man, and the man always in the know, to all of the craziness around him. Neeson is good in the role but he just doesn’t get the opportunity to shine like he did in Taken. In fact in the third act it almost feels like he’s passing the baton as it were. Bradley Cooper as Faceman appears to be reveling in his role only second to Sharlto Copley who chews literally every scene he’s in. The real wild card in the film was Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, an ultimate fighter that dared to take on the role of B.A. that was made iconic by Mr. T. As it turns out he does a great job. Smartly he doesn’t try to play it as over the top as Mr. T did but the essence of what made the character great is intact. Jessica Biel is in the movie but the character could have been played by almost any female actress. That’s not an insult directed at Biel’s acting abilities as much as it is directed at the lack of character development. It is worth noting that she could have found some way to make the character her own and she didn’t.
The A-Team was directed by Joe Carnahan, the man who previously brought us Smokin’ Aces. The same slick look from that first film reappears in this film but this time around the hard quick cuts are kept to a minimum. There are really only two hiccups in this film. The first one is that the team doesn’t really help anyone in this film but themselves. The TV show was all about this team hiring out its skills to help underdogs. The other issue is that the final chapter gets a little too chaotic to follow at times and the final gag comes off a little unclear. The A-Team is supposed to be an over the top actioner with tons of laughs and explosions and with that in mind the movie is near perfect. Could some of the characters have been developed a bit better? Yes. Did the script need one more pass to tighten up the last act? Yes. But was the movie still a Hell of a lot of fun? Absolutely.