The A-Team
I’m not sure about a 2 hour movie where Liam Neeson plays RISK …

Theatrical Release Date: 06/11/2010
Director: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Brian Bloom

If you have a problem (TV to film adaptations 25 years too late), if no one else can help (I need a drink), and if you can find them (try looking in every theater nearby), maybe you can hire “The A-Team” (for $10-12 per person). Most of those words come straight from the A-Team lore, as narrated over the opening credits of the TV show (which ran from 1983-1987) and the closing credits of the cinematic reboot to the franchise.

The unit is composed of four members: Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), commanding officer; ‘Face’ (Bradley Cooper), second-in-command and consummate ladies man; B.A. Baracus (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson), muscle and wheelman; Murdock (Sharlto Copley), pilot and potential psychiatric patient. Should anyone be born a bit too late to have enjoyed the original family friendly TV saga of wrongly disgraced soldiers who help those in need, all the while avoiding capture by the government, well … then … I just said all you need to know about it actually.

This is essentially an origin tale – we get to see how our heroes met up, were framed by the bad guys, and (spoiler alert for the naïve masses) escape capture to give birth to the legend set forth by the original TV series. Of course, because no big budget CGI spectacle can have a screenplay devoid of romantic entanglement, Jessica Biel had a chance to play a character that allows Face to show his softer side. While each of the main actors all do a nice job of fitting into their parts, Biel never quite finds the right tone to the role and although she’s very attractive, a stronger actress could have made this more than a simple plot device/eye candy.

As the film unfolds, director Joe Carnahan justifies his hiring by effectively combining action and comedy, giving the project as a whole a similar feel to the show (though the violence is amped up considerably to meet with current audience/cultural expectations). However, Carnahan fails to present the action in the best light, constantly resorting to quick, shaky and claustrophobic camera movements. While I can forgive the ridiculous amount of CGI on display, it’d be nice for simple fight scenes to flow better (Rampage Jackson is a professional fighter after all) and it’s been a while since I felt nauseous from a hand held style (it was akin to having flashbacks from the first thirty minutes of “Cloverfield” at times).

Also, one of the key elements to any episode of “The A-Team” was a montage of the guys building some ridiculous contraption in a shed or barn. Here we get to see them welding together a few things on a boat but with none of the emphasis necessary to really spark the nostalgic feelings. And don’t get me started on destroying B.A.’s signature van … I’m still a bit put out.

That being said, I had a lot of fun going along for the ride. The A-Team themselves had a nice chemistry with each other and I didn’t have to fire up any cerebral impulses for 117 minutes. If you stay until the credits end, there are ultra-quick cameos from two of the original cast (Mr. T said no because the film is too violent and doesn’t keep with the spirit of the show well enough; George Peppard passed away in 1994). It was nice to see these but a bit of a shame that other parts couldn’t have been worked into the background of the film instead, rather than resorting to what are essentially cinematic afterthoughts meant to appease the more rabid fans of the franchise.

Getting down to it, I wish Carnahan would have left the shaky cam to Paul Greengrass and that a useless sub-plot about B.A. growing a conscious about killing people had been cut entirely. Still, “The A-Team” didn’t take itself too seriously and remained true to the most important element in films of its genre – being fun. A 3 out of 5, anyone looking for an action/comedy will get what they want here and the larger scale of some of the scenes are best seen on the big screen … though I wouldn’t begrudge those who take caution and take advantage of matinee prices.