A brief survey for my reader(s) before we get into “The A-Team”:
Have you, while watching a ridiculous action movie, ever uttered one of the following statements? :
A.) “He HAS to be out of bullets by now”;
B.) “No one could live through that”;
C.) “There’s no way in Heaven or earth that this could ever happen”:
D.) “It is not possible to fly a tank”.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then please pay attention to what I’m about to write:
Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, watch “The A-Team.”
I want to save those of you that fall into this category from the time you will lose and the pain this movie will put you through. This is quite simply not the movie for you. If, on the other hand, you’re alright with a bit (okay, a LOT) of absurdity as long as it’s done correctly, then may I present to you the epic ludicrosity of “The A-Team.” (That’s right, it’s so ridiculous I had to make up a word.)
Part origin story, part retooling the “classic” TV series, “The A-Team” drops us into the corrupt back woods of Mexico, with Colonel Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) and Lieutenant Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper) on a fool hardy mission. Hannibal enlists the aid of some muscle in the form of B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and a mentally unstable pilot, Murdock (Sharlto Copley), to rescue Face and race across the U.S. border, birthing the A-Team in the process. Eight years and numerous missions later, the team is asked to take out a group of baddies that have obtained printing plates for U.S. currency. The “plan comes together” (hahaha, I’m so funny) just right, until they are betrayed by a team of mercenaries who steal the plates and frame the A-Team for the crimes. A few months after being imprisoned, the guys break out and begin an all-out assault in an attempt to reclaim the plates and clear their names; all while staying one step ahead of an Army investigator (Jessica Biel) and one step behind a CIA spook (Patrick Wilson). And oh, the shenanigans that ensue!
I came into “The A-Team” with feelings that could only be classified as somewhere between magnificent doubt and brooding anger. I could smell the “Clash of the Titans”-like stink all over this thing and made no qualms about my expectations of complete and total failure. Even as the opening scene unfolded, I rolled my eyes numerous times and looked at my movie-going teammate with exaggerated expression to convey my “I freaking told you so” attitude. Within three minutes, however, my feelings of impending doom vanished, swallowed up by the immense amount of fun being had on screen and by proxy, myself and the rest of the audience. “The A-Team” is an enormously entertaining, action packed thrill ride chock full of exciting, kick-you-squarely-in-the-butt ridiculous action that only takes a break long enough to allow for some well placed, witty one-liners.
Top to bottom, “The A-Team” delivers on just about every level you can reasonably expect an action movie to have, and that all starts with the cast. Neeson continues his reinvention of the last few years and you can tell he’s quite enjoying his new-found action stardom. With shades of last year’s “Taken,” Neeson handles himself in with a cool, calm-in-the-face-of-incredibly-bad-odds swagger that makes you wonder if he’s not acting as much as he’s just playing himself as Hannibal Smith. Cooper brings the necessary charisma to Face, a role he might have been genetically engineered to play. As a CIA spook who jumps in and out of the A-Team’s adventures, Patrick Wilson delivers a strong performance, blending arrogance with debilitating incompetence. He is the perfect antagonist for the A-Team and personally had me wishing he would have been cast in Jason Patric’s place in “The Losers,” a film which struggled to find its rhythm due to the weakness of the villain. Even Biel and Jackson feel comfortable in their roles and have moments of strength. Copley, however, takes scene stealing to a whole new level. Murdock is a nutcase first, pilot second and Copley strikes that balance PERFECTLY, delivering the goods with every single line.
No one is ever going to confuse “The A-Team” with an award-caliber film. I completely understand the number of critics, not to mention my own “readers,” who are panning “The A-Team” or refusing to see it just on principle. The plot takes a serious backseat to the action and that occasionally creates a problem. Some of the “acting” is pretty bad, with “Rampage” Jackson especially bringing very little to the game. And really, the entire thing is one giant ball of insane absurdity.
But let me be quite frank with you, dear friends: none of those issues matter. “The A-Team” takes realism, throws it from a high altitude, and shoots it down with a heat seeking missile, sending it back to earth in tiny, scorching fragments. From minute one, director Brad Carnahan makes it clear that he’s not looking to make an authentic, important film that will be praised for its biting political commentary or that will be called the “Saving Private Ryan” of its genre. Neigh, Carnahan is after outstanding stunts, intense action sequences, and seriously well written dialogue that truly fits the story it helps to tell. There are a couple of weak points in which the movie tries to strike an emotional chord it just can’t hit. Truthfully, there’s no need for these scenes save to add length to the movie’s runtime and perhaps add a bit of humanity into the action. But these moments are short and few in number and don’t take away too much from the overall flow of the movie.
After all of the outspoken doubts I expressed over the last few months, darn it if “The A-Team” isn’t one of the best, most fun action movie experiences I’ve had in quite some time. It doesn’t quite stack up to, say, “Die Hard,” but then again, in the 22 years since “Die Hard” debuted, how many action movies do stack up to it? (None, that’s how many.) It is, however, a slap in the face to any Michael Bay movie and a big, “Check this out, SUCKA!!!” to Jerry Bruckheimer and all his cronies. Quite simply, “The A-Team” is just an absolute blast. I would say perhaps the most enjoyable watch of the first half of 2010 and one I would gladly take in again.
Grade: B+... No, you know what? Heck with it. A-.
Liam Neeson for President,