Friday 30 July 2010

THE A-TEAM review

The film adaptation of the classic 80's TV show is now in cinemas.
More after the jump...

You know the story, you know the theme tune. Imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit...blah, blah, blah...soldiers for hire...blah, blah, blah...they are The A-Team! Der da der, dun dun duuuun! If you were a boy growing up in the 80's, you wanted to watch this show; in fact you HAD to watch this show.

The new film version follows the same basic plot as the original TV series, but with a few details updated, such as the shift to the recent Iraq war. The characters are basically the same as we last saw them, with Liam Neeson leading the team as Col. Hannibal Smith. He's backed up by his right hand man Templeton 'Faceman' Peck (Bradley Cooper), a suave, vain man whose biggest weapon is his way with the ladies. Next up there's the muscle of Bosco 'B.A.' Baracus (played by UFC fighter Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson), all delivered to us by the lunatic chopper pilot 'Howling Mad' Murdock (District 9's breakout star Sharlto Copley).

The first fifteen minutes is absolutely bat-shit crazy barnstorming fun that introduces us to the team in the most entertaining way possible. We see all of their main attributes on show, and how they're a killer combination when they work as a team. We quickly jump ahead to Iraq, where the (mostly nonsense) plot about stolen currency plates and double crossing agents kicks off. After getting themselves framed for a crime they didn't commit, they find themselves incarcerated in maximum security prisons, eager to clear their names. Patrick Wilson's CIA Agent Lynch might be able to offer them a shot at redemption, but maybe there's more to his motivations than meets the eye.

There's been tons of modern revivals of classic TV shows, with Charlie's Angels and Starsky and Hutch being some popular examples, but the results have varied wildly. Sometimes they've moved too far away from the original concept; other times they've added a post modern spin, a la The Brady Bunch and Bewitched. The A Team movie has been a long threatened prospect, and went through a lot of casting and talent changes before it landed at the feet of Joe 'Narc' Carnahan.

Carnahan's ended up with a great cast here, even if they're not quite the star names that have been attached in the past. Liam Neeson's the biggest name, and has some action credentials after last year's Taken, but he'd be lost without the back-up from the rest of the team. Bradley Cooper's slowly becoming a big star, but so far has been more associated with comedies like The Hangover. He's mainly called upon to look nice for the ladies (both on screen and off), but he's a really likable guy with a lot of screen presence. It's hard to think of a better person to play Face.

Sharlto Copley absolutely steals every scene he is in. He showed a lot of range in District 9, starting off as a comic character and then turning into a tragic hero. He's most definitely the comic relief here, and looks like he's having a ball doing it. The South African accent is hard to hide behind the southern drawl, but it actually works in the character's favour. He's definitely psychotic, but damn he's charming. Who else could get away with stitching a lightning bolt into B.A.'s arm?

It does have a tendency to add too many elements to the tried and tested formula. The TV show always added the girl every now and then to spice up the show a bit, but Jessica Biel's character is absolutely pointless. She adds little to the group apart from a touch of sex appeal, but it's the male bonding that drives the story. Put it this way, if there's a sequel, she won't be in it.

We still have B.A.'s fear of flying (even if he has no problem with sliding down the side of the high rise building), but his emotional growth is superfluous, especially when the conclusion is obvious. Rampage Jackson is perfectly fine as B.A., but they shouldn't have bothered giving him such a character arc. He's not a strong enough actor to pull it off. Sure he has the physicality, but his B.A. is a much more solemn being than Mr T's incarnation, lacking the bravado and grandstanding that made the character such an icon.

It's not without some major faults. At no point do the team seem to care about their lives being in danger, meaning that you don't care either. When dropping thousands of feet from a plane trapped in a heavy tank they don't worry about their survival for one moment, just laughing at each other like they're high on nitrous oxide. They may pick up a few scrapes, but ultimately they're pretty invincible. It's best enjoyed if you laugh along with them and just enjoy the ride.

Having said that, the ending goes too far. It's all 'this depends on this which depends on that'. It's the one part of the film that gets bogged down with too much information. Hannibal states that he enjoys 'overkill', but the set piece is ill fitting with the rest of the film. They've already raised the bar for ridiculousness, but it's a hard bar to get over with this finale. The airborne escapades are definitely the highlights.

The time scale's a bit odd too. I'm sure Face does his fair share of moisturising, but it's a bit of a stretch to have the opening introductory sequence and then jump 8 years ahead into a war zone and not have the characters age at all. There's also a lack of a main bad guy. There's a few contenders, but they're either absent for most of the story or increasingly stupid. Patrick Wilson's team of CIA operatives do seem to devolve from killer agents to bumbling idiots at an alarming speed.

All in all this is a great reintroduction to the franchise that revels in it's own ridiculousness, and despite a dodgy conclusion, this was rrreeeeaalllly good fun. I'd have to consider it a success when the biggest criticism I can throw at it is that it didn't have enough dressing up in costumes.


No comments:

Post a Comment